Ian Mortimer’s “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Restoration Britain” is a nonfiction guide about what to expect if you were unexpectedly plunked down in England in the latter half of the 17th century.
“The Time Traveler’s Guide to Restoration Britain: A Handbook for Visitors to the Seventeenth Century: 1660-1699”
by Ian Mortimer
Pegasus Books, 440 pp., $28.95
Oh, a time-travel book. How quaint, you may think.
Ian Mortimer’s books are not clichéd “Connecticut Yankee”-styled stories, with a protagonist who lumbers around messing up the time-space continuum with an iPhone. “Restoration,” like his others, is a heavily researched, minutely detailed nonfiction guide about what to expect if you were unexpectedly plunked down in a featherbed in the late 17th century, getting ready to face a day in one of the most exciting, if not the most compassionate, times the English-speaking world has ever experienced.
The Restoration brought back the monarchy but ushered in with it an explosion of creativity, of hope and — in a boon to all of us who came after — the serving of coffee, tea and chocolate and the playing of card games. This is the personality-packed era in which architect Christopher Wren and the scientists Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley walked the same streets, John Milton and Edward Dryden were well-known writers, William Congreve’s comedies were on the stage and diarist Samuel Pepys wrote down everything. The plague was on its way out, as was burning people for witchcraft, and soap became cheap enough for everyday use.
Most Read Stories
Mortimer addresses all the surprises and challenges of daily life, from conditions most likely to kill you (ague and fever, smallpox/measles, bad teeth, childbirth) to diabolical justice (pressing between heavy plates, death for bigamy, workhouses) to the joyful burst of music-making and theater all over the…