Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Time Travellers Guide To Medieval England

Author/historian Ian Mortimer has come up with a winner here.  The concept of this book is imaginative and simple, if the past is another country and they do things differently there, then surely you would need a guidebook. He has a refreshingly humanist approach to history and even when discussing such oddities as medieval medicine (a candle of mutton fat combined with sea holly seeds to stave off toothache for example) he refuses to patronise the ideas of the time.  This book is a treasure trove of wonderfully humourous anecdotes and sympathetic explanation and understanding.  The chapters are divided thematically so you can dip into them at your leisure (perfect for busy but history-loving Mums everywhere).

Elizabeth's Women

This is a non-fiction take on the life of the Virgin Queen from an unusual vantage point — that of the women who influenced her and by whom she was surrounded most of her life.  Bringing these women back into prominence (some of whom were interesting, challenging women in their own right) gives a much needed balance to the usual picture of Elizabeth 1 surrounded by male favourites.

The author has an easy writing style but falls a bit on the historical accuracy stakes, taking for gospel such old chestnuts as Anne Boleyn's sixth finger and stating that George Boleyn was the father of the bishop of Lichfield when he in fact had no acknowleged legitimate offspring. Howlers aside it's worth a read for its interesting angle on Elizabeth's life.