We think of Queen Elizabeth I as 'Gloriana': the most powerful English woman in history. We think of her reign (1558-1603) as a golden age of maritime heroes, like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Francis Drake, and of great writers, such as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time?
In this book Ian Mortimer answers the key questions that a prospective traveller to late sixteenth-century England would ask. Applying the groundbreaking approach he pioneered in his bestselling Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, the Elizabethan world unfolds around the reader.
He shows a society making great discoveries and winning military victories and yet at the same time being troubled by its new-found awareness. It is a country in which life expectancy at birth is in the early thirties, people still starve to death and Catholics are persecuted for their faith. Yet it produces some of the finest writing in the English language and some of the most magnificent architecture, and sees Elizabeth's subjects settle in America and circumnavigate the globe. Welcome to a country that is, in all its contradictions, the very crucible of the modern world.
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It is a magnificent social history, rich and scholarly, but with the verve and intrigue of a great novel -
As Mortimer puts it, 'sometimes the past will inspire you, sometimes it will make you weep'. What it won’t do, thanks to this enthralling book, is leave you unmoved - Mail on Sunday
An astonishingly colourful portrait of an astonishingly colourful era, one sophisticated enough to include, and make sense of, all its contradictions. It is as if Mortimer has restored an old painting, stripping it of its cloaking layers of brown varnish to reveal its vitality and life afresh - Daily Telegraph
Mortimer brings...depth and flair to the age of Shakespeare and the Virgin Queen. From dental hygiene to table manners, the findings fascinate – even if we don’t wish that we were there - Independent
Ian Mortimer triumphs. Using a heady mix of historical fact, original documents and intelligent guesswork, he pieces together not just how the Elizabethans lived but how they thought - Tribune
Fascinating account of everyday life in Elizabethan England - PA syndicated review
With Shakespeare on hand to give us extra insight into how Elizabethans saw themselves (and what they – often to our eyes inexplicably – found funny), and a society playing out its growing sense of self-awareness as it tiptoes to a modern age, the stage is set for a fresh and funny book that wears its learning lightly - Independent
Entertaining history of the country’s landscape, people, religion, health and culture in the 16th century - The Times
Mortimer's book has something for everyone... His curiosity is boundless and his profound scholarship is leavened by a sense of fun - Daily Express
A delightful book, full of busy research lightly worn, that is as accessible and entertaining a guide as you will find to living in past times - Sunday Times, Culture Magazine
A one-man time machine, Ian Mortimer takes us on an atmospheric tourist trip through Elizabethan England, attention to startling detail his stock-in-trade - Sunday Express
An enthralling tour, full of observational gems - Sunday Times
Intriguing and thoroughly absorbing. Mortimer is an erudite and entertaining tour guide to a poorly mapped foreign country: the past - The Field
Ian Mortimer realistically describes the down-to-earth details of everyday living and stirring times in the England before and after the 1590s - Saga Magazine
Fascinatingly readable - Country Life
A fascinating guide with a difference - Daily Mail
Ian Mortimer’s engaging manner conceals his scholarship, the scope of which I cannot hope to convey here. He makes the past live. What more could you ask of a historian? - The Oldie
Superb reimagining of life in Elizabethan England - Sun
Dr Ian Mortimer is the author of the bestselling Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, eight other books and many peer-reviewed articles on English history between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) for his work on the social history of medicine in seventeenth-century England. In June 2011, the University of Exeter awarded him a higher doctorate (D.Litt.) by examination, on the strength of his historical work. He also writes historical fiction, published under his middle names (James Forrester). He lives with his wife and three children on the edge of Dartmoor, in Devon. For further information about him and a full bibliography, see his website: www.ianmortimer.com.