nonfiction

Ian Mortimer: One of My Favorite History Writers

In an earlier post, I wrote about how much I enjoy listening to history on audible or reading it. I think it’s very useful research for fantasy writers, and the stories in history are so fascinating! One of my favorite history writers right now is Ian Mortimer, who wrote “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England,” and many other great books. I already discussed the “Guide to Medieval England” in my previous post, but I’ve read or listened to many other excellent books by Mortimer. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed:

Edward III: The Perfect King

So my poor friends have had to listen to me nerd out about this book too much, so I should probably write about it! It’s an incredible look at one of the most successful, beloved, and glorious of England’s Medieval Kings. Yet his reign had one of the most inauspicious beginnings any King could have—his father was deposed by his mother’s lover, Roger Mortimer, when he was still underage. He quickly fell under Mortimer’s control, and had to survive some very real threats to his life and his crown. But in a dramatic turn around, Edward and his trusted companions made a bold move to sneak into Mortimer’s castle to capture and overthrow him. And that’s just the beginning of a very intense and dramatic reign, but one that also reflects the most exciting and romantic parts of the Middle Ages—jousting, poetry (Geoffrey Chaucer was a member of his court), feasts, and chivalry. He survived the Black Death and established the Order of the Garter. The book is an incredible story of the most pivotal man of the age, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Medieval history.

Henry IV: The Righteous King

This is a follow up book to Edward III: The Perfect King. Henry IV, like his cousin Richard II, was a grandson of Edward III. What I love about this book is how Mortimer manages to use the scant historical detail to create a living portrait of a man in a very difficult, unforgiving position. The reader feels the very real fear and dangers Henry IV faced, and the remarkable way he adapts to his circumstances and tries to find the right thing to do. Mortimer portrays a gallant and glorious man, a champion of the joust, who also has a deep love of books and music. Despite his reputation as a usurper, Henry IV showed remarkable patience and restraint towards Richard II, who several times threatens to murder Henry’s father, John of Gaunt. It’s a fascinating depiction of a king rarely discussed in English history.

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England

I loved The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, so I was excited to read Mortimer’s follow up, the Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England. I loved this book as much as the first one! It’s full of colorful and interesting depictions of Elizabethan life. It’s also an evocative portrait of Queen Elizabeth I herself, and how her own personal religious and cultural preferences fundamentally shaped both the age that bears her name and the history of England (and in particular the Church of England). If you have any interest in learning about real Elizabethan life, I’d highly recommend it.