The Time Travelers Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
by Ian Mortimer
Published in October 2011
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
I had very low expectations for this book because it is written in the style of a tourist guidebook for time travelers. I thought that the history would be simple, and the writing pedantic and condescending. Also, this is a book for novices to the Middle Ages who have little or no background to the period, not amateur historians. Nevertheless, I had heard good things about this book, so I decided to read it anyways.
Boy was I wrong. This book is an amazing started guide to the late Middle Ages, and is suitable for both initiates as well as adepts of medieval history.
The book is written in the style of a guide for time travelers, and is mostly in the second person. Despite this, it was very well written. The time travel aspects aren’t the main focus of the book, and the style was well used to draw contrasts to the modern world. I think that the format added to, rather than subtracted from, the history. Similar attempts I have read at making “time traveller’s guides” turned out really badly, so I suggest not letting bad experiences with those temper your will to read this book.
The information conveyed primarily centers around daily life in the 14th century. Chapters cover different topics ranging from travel, to food, to telling the time, to manners. It is fairly extensive, and gives a good idea of what daily life in the late Middle Ages would be like.
The historiography is also very good. Many popular history books such as “How the Irish Saved Civilization” or the endless stream of “Hitler books” have terrible historiography. They do not cite sources, don’t mention archeology, and mix conjecture with data. This book has very good historiography considering its broad appeal. It covers a specific period from 1300 until 1400, so doesn’t mix information from different eras. It also does a good job at hinting to the reader where the information comes from (which, like most books covering the period, mostly comes from Chaucer).
I especially liked the chapter about the markets. I had simply no idea what kind of goods and services would be available in a medieval market. Ignorantly, I clung onto the RPG-esque idea that I could have gone to a flea market to buy foods and armor. Instead, I would have been able to buy ingredients such as spices, or armor materials such as leather. I found learning about how supply chains worked in the 14th century to be very interesting.
I recommend this book as a starter for anyone who isn’t familiar with the period, but wants to dive into the history.
The Hollow Earth: The Greatest Geographical Discovery in History
by Raymond Bernard
Published in 1964
Thibault’s Score: 1/5
I lost IQ points while reading this book.
Every now and then, I like to keep my ideas fresh by reading something really weird and conspiratorial that I find ridiculous. I read authors like Graham Hancock and Anatoly Fomenko, both of which I found interesting and mind expanding even if I disagree. This book was not a well researched alternative view, it was the mad ravings of a crackhead.
This book was written at the height of the New Age era by Walter Siegmeister under the pseudonym Raymond Bernard in 1964. Walter Siegmeister was a founder of the new age movement, and an alternative medicine “expert” who died at the ripe old age of 62. He supported the idea of an “alternative reality” and advocated a one world communist government.
This book attempts to explain the “proven” phenomenon of flying saucers by arguing that the earth is shaped like an apple, and has two massive holes at either pole. These holes are the entrance to an underground world which is home to plants, animals, and alternate human civilizations. These underground alternate human civilizations have a lot of technology like flying saucers. He argues that this underground world would be able to resist nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The book opens with an account of Admiral Byrd, who was the first man to fly over both the North Pole and the South Pole. Byrd says in his journal that, after flying over the North Pole, saw “iceless land, lakes, mountains covered with trees, and even a ‘monstrous animal.’” This could have well been Canada, and he might have seen a bear or seal.
This account (which was likely of Canada) is the only evidence in the first half of the book. From that the author extrapolates underground civilizations with flying saucers. I don’t know about the second half of the book, because I stopped reading it.
I want to stress that I am not giving this book a 1 star because I think that the content is crazy. Reading highly alternative and esoteric authors is very important. I am giving this book 1 star because it isn’t well researched and is poorly written.
Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street
by John Brooks
Published in 1969
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Business Adventures is a collection of 12 true news events written as narrative stories set in the United States of the 1920s through the mid 1960s. The stories come into two categories: legal and regulatory history, and business history.
The legal and regulatory histories are quite dull, and include a very cursory overview of the US income tax. I’ve already read a lot about the income tax in the United States, and found this particular story to be kind of annoying to read because he leaves out too many critical details. I suggest skipping over all the chapters dealing with regulators instead of businesses.
The rest of the book is pretty interesting. I enjoyed the chapters dealing with the Ford Edsel and the Texas Oil Inside Trading the most. The chapter on the Ford Edsel deals with Ford’s greatest failure, where they waste millions of dollars on a massive marketing campaign that proved useless. I enjoyed hearing about the endless waves of useless market research that included doing opinion polls to see if people would associate automobiles with sexual terms.
I enjoyed this book, and recommend it to people who are already interested in business.
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