• See THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at the Duchess Theatre West End
  • Catch Hattie Morahan in BALLOT MONKEYS on C4 @ 10pm
  • See EACH HIS OWN WILDERNESS at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
  • See Liz Kingsman in BALLOT MONKEYS @ 10pm on C4

Client details

Dr Ian Mortimer
© Jim Wileman

Dr Ian Mortimer

Writer / Presenter

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James Gill
Assistant: Helen Efange
020 3214 0956
+44 (0) 20 3214 0887

Dr Mortimer has BA and PhD degrees in history from Exeter University and an MA in archive studies from University College London. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998. Ian was awarded the Alexander Prize by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine in 2004. He lives with his wife and three children on the edge of Dartmoor.

For more information about Ian and his work, please visit www.ianmortimer.com


Forthcoming publications:


History's greatest tour guide is back. And he's ringing the changes.

In a contest of change, which century from the past millennium would come up trumps? Imagine the Black Death took on the female vote in a pub brawl, or the Industrial Revolution faced the internet in a medieval joust - whose side would you be on?

In this hugely entertaining book, celebrated historian Ian Mortimer takes us on a whirlwind tour of Western history, pitting one century against another in his quest to measure change. We journey from a time when there was a fair chance of your village being burnt to the ground by invaders, and dried human dung was a recommended cure for cancer, to a world in which explorers sailed into the unknown and civilisations came into conflict with each other on an epic scale.

Here is a story of godly scientists, shrewd farmers, cold-hearted entrepreneurs and strong-minded women - a story of discovery, invention, revolution and cataclysmic shifts in perspective.

Bursting with ideas and underscored by a wry sense of humour, this is a journey into the past like no other. Our understanding of change will never be the same again - and the lessons we learn along the way are profound ones for us all.




Ian Mortimer's three part series, Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England, based on his bestselling book, begins this Friday 31st May at 9pm on BBC2. 

Ian Mortimer transports viewers back to Elizabethan England and reveals, in vivid detail, a living, breathing Tudor world. Viewers learn how ordinary Tudor housewives turned plants into medicine, how the middle classes kept themselves clean using linen cloths, how the poor made pottage, how cooks of the rich devised recipes for new ingredients, and how Tudors learned to read and write.

"An impressive call to the imagination." Sunday Times pick of the day

Latest publication:


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.


Are we the same as our ancestors, or are we completely different?
This is the question at the heart of this short multi-touch ebook of new and exclusive material to accompany The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabeth England, now a major BBC series. Historian Ian Mortimer takes us on an immersive journey through the five senses of the Elizabethan era – seeing, hearing, smell, taste, feeling - and the sixth: Fear.
Why can so few Elizabethans afford to wear bright red clothing? What are the loudest sounds you might hear in a world devoid of extremely loud noises? Why might you occasionally wash your mouth out with sulphuric acid? And how does it play on the lone traveller’s nerves to be walking under the constant threat of imminent attack on the highway?
Using a selection of unseen clips from the television series, rich imagery and a feast of contemporary music, The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England: A Sensory Ride puts the reader onto the Elizabethan streets and shows that although we might have the same senses as our ancestors, how we experience sensation is another matter altogether.


“Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England was a surprise bestseller in 2009 ...  a lovely, lively book, full of startling details and clearly the work of a thoughtful historian with a tremendous grasp of his period.  The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England is just as good, and only suffers by comparison because it does not come as such a surprise ... What he does so well is not only to describe the attitudes the Elizabethans had, but to explain why they had them ... Throughout he makes thought-provoking observations.  What emerges is 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.”
The Telegraph *****

“Ian Mortimer’s intriguing guide ... is studded with gems ... Mortimer’s gift is to turn unburnished material into observational gold ... 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

“Mortimer has an eye for telling anecdotes, and in these, his book is at its best ... Mortimer has again written a vivid and highly entertaining book. Echoing the view of the social historian Christopher Dyer that to know of past societies is to understand ourselves, he has found an attractive formula with which to present the lives of ordinary people in history, and to bring history to life.”
Thomas Penn, Guardian

“Brilliantly entertaining and uniquely informative ... 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 towards the modern age, the stage is set for a fresh and funny book that wears its learning lightly.”

“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.”
Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday, 5-Star Review

“Mortimer’s slick book bristles with alarming facts, hilarious episodes, glorious pageants and apocalyptic horrors.”
Daily Mail, Book of the Week

“Ian Mortimer he writes history as people want to read it ... He can visit places that no longer stand and make comparisons with the modern day in a way that would be jarringly anachronistic elsewhere ...  this is a scholarly and accessible book: Mortimer’s research is wide and deep ...  This book helps us imagine what it might be like to live in another age.”
Suzannah Lipscomb, History Today

"Mortimer’s book has something for everyone, from slang terms for the hierarchy of the criminal fraternity to cures for bad breath... His curiosity is boundless and his profound scholarship is leavened by a sense of fun."

“This fascinatingly readable book”
Country Life

Publication DetailsNotes
Henry V is regarded as the great English hero. Lionized in his own day for his victory at Agincourt, his piety and his rigorous application of justice, he was elevated by Shakespeare into a champion of English nationalism for all future generations. But what was he really like? Does he deserve to be thought of as 'the greatest man who ever ruled England?'. In this groundbreaking and ambitious book, Ian Mortimer portrays Henry in the pivotal year of his reign. Recording the dramatic events of 1415 on a day-by-day basis, he offers the fullest, most precise and least romanticized view we have of Henry and what he did.

The result is not only a fascinating reappraisal of Henry; it brings to the fore many unpalatable truths which biographers and military historians have largely ignored. While Henry retains the essential qualities of his greatness, his legend is stripped of its Shakespearean rhetoric and compassion. At the center of the book is the campaign which culminated in the battle of Agincourt: a slaughter ground designed not to advance England's interests directly but to demonstrate God's approval of Henry's royal authority on both sides of the Channel. 1415 was a year of religious persecution, personal suffering and one horrendous battle.

This is the story of that year, as seen over the shoulder of its most cold-hearted, most ambitious and most celebrated hero.
The past is a foreign country: this is your guidebook. Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? Should you go to a castle or a monastic guesthouse? And what are you going to eat? What sort of food are you going to be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord?

This radical new approach turns our entire understanding of history upside down. It shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. It sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking you, the reader, to the middle ages, and showing you everything from the horrors of leprosy and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and haute couture. Being a guidebook, many questions are answered which do not normally occur in traditional history books. How do you greet people in the street? What should you use for toilet paper? How fast - and how safely - can you travel? Why might a physician want to taste your blood? And how do you test to see if you are going down with the plague? The result is the most astonishing social history book you are ever likely to read: revolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance and fear.
In June 1405, King Henry IV stopped at a small Yorkshire manor house to shelter from a storm. That night he awoke screaming that traitors were burning his skin. His instinctive belief that he was being poisoned was understandable: he had already survived at least eight plots to dethrone or kill him in the first six years of his reign. In 1399, at the age of thirty-two, he was enthusiastically greeted as the saviour of the realm when he ousted from power the insecure and tyrannical King Richard II. But therein lay Henry's weakness.In making himself king he had broken God's law and left himself starkly open to criticism. He had to contend with men who supported him only as long as they could control him; when they failed, they plotted to kill him. Such overwhelming threats transformed him from a hero into a duplicitous murderer: a king prepared to go to any lengths to save his family and his throne. That legacy of unrest has almost entirely obscured him. Shakespeare was forced to downplay his achievements, and instead to present his adversary Richard II as the wronged man. But what Henry actually provoked was a social revolution as much as a political one. Against all the odds, he took a poorly ruled nation, established a new Lancastrian dynasty, and introduced the principle that a king must act in accordance with parliament. He might not have been the most glorious king England ever had, but he was one of the bravest, and certainly the greatest survivor of them all.
He ordered his uncle to be beheaded; he usurped his father's throneand; he started a war which lasted for more than a hundred years and he taxed his people more than any other previous king. Yet for centuries Edward III was celebrated as the most brilliant king England had ever had, and three hundred years after his death it was said that his kingship was perhaps the greatest that the world had ever known. In this first full study of the man's character and life, Ian Mortimer shows how Edward personally provided the impetus for much of the drama of his fifty-year reign. Nineteenth century historians saw in Edward the opportunity to decry a warmonger, and painted him as a self-seeking, rapacious, tax-gathering conqueror. Yet as this book shows, beneath the strong warrior king was a compassionate, conscientious and often merciful man - resolute yet devoted to his wife, friends and family. He emerges as a strikingly modern figure, to whom many will be able to relate - the father of both the English nation and the English people.
One night in August 1323 a captive rebel baron, Sir Roger Mortimer, drugged his guards and escaped from the Tower of London. With the king's men-at-arms in pursuit he fled to the south coast, and sailed to France. There he was joined by Isabella, the Queen of England, who threw herself into his arms. A year later, as lovers, they returned with an invading army: King Edward II's forces crumbled before them, and Mortimer took power. He removed Edward II in the first deposition of a monarch in British history. Then the ex-king was apparently murdered, some said with a red-hot poker, in Berkeley Castle. Brutal, intelligent, passionate, profligate, imaginative and violent: Sir Roger Mortimer was an extraordinary character. It is not surprising that the queen lost her heart to him. Nor is it surprising that his contemporaries were terrified of him. But until now no one has appreciated the full evil genius of the man. This first biography reveals not only the man's career as a feudal lord, a governor of Ireland, a rebel leader and a dictator of England but also the truth of what happened that night in Berkeley Castle.
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