Ian Mortimer


What's New?

7 September 2018
Folio Society

The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England is now available as a luxurious Folio Society imprint.

29 August 2018
Medieval Mortimers

One of my spare-time activities is to serve as Vice President of the Mortimer History Society, which has been going now for ten years. For them I keep an 'Outline Lineage' of the major armigerous Mortimer families and how they relate to one another. This is regularly published on the society's website. It has just undergone an extensive revision, including the findings that the Mortimer family of Attleborough inherited two Lincolnshire manors from the Domesday lord of Wigmore, Ralph Mortimer, and so are almost certainly descended from him. Also that William de Mortemer of Bec was the brother of Robert Mortimer of Richard's Castle. And many more such things. If you're interested in the genealogy of the medieval Mortimers, this will all be very exciting. If not, do not click on this link - it will send you to almost fifty pages of in-depth genealogical information, argument and source material.

26 August 2018
Great Bidlake

A very enjoyable evening yesterday at Great Bidlake, Bridestowe, helping the owner celebrate 750 years since his ancestors bought the estate. Why was I there? To talk about medieval history, of course, and to shed light on how different life was in 1268 from now. But also because the family sold the house just after the Second World War and James Bidlake, when he saw the house as a child, had a dream. He resolved then to buy it back when he grew up. A few years ago he did just that. I find the story so inspiring that I just had to go along and join in the festivities.

25 August 2018
Folio Society edition of my Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England

A very welcome arrival in the post this morning. Official publication date won't be for another couple of weeks.

9 August 2018
The Outcasts of Time

My novel, The Outcasts of Time is published in paperback today. Various reviewers praised it highly when it came out in hardback, and some readers have responded in rapturous terms. Others have clearly felt annoyed that the book has no plot, and have taken pains to say how much they don't like it. The plain fact is that it's not a normal historical novel. It's certainly not a bodice-ripper, nor is it a swashbuckling thriller; it is nothing like the Clarenceux Trilogy, which I wrote under my middle names (James Forrester). It doesn't have a plot because, surprise, surprise, TIME has no plot. It's an original attempt to portray ordinary people doing ordinary things in different centuries, and thereby trying to contextualise our own place in time. In this sense it is more like a dramatised set of Time Traveller's Guides than a novel. I don't know of any other book like it. Of everything I have written to date, it comes closest to meeting my ambition to make history a purposeful element in understanding how and why we are alive today, with all the emotional force subsumed in our own ordinary lives, as well as those of our ancestors.

7 August 2018
Purple Emperor

This is so special. Today I have had a wonderful day with my son, Alexander: running 4 miles around a lake together; an excellent French fish soup with rouille and croutons; walking around Albi, with its stunning brick 13th-century cathedral and palace; having an 'Ice-Cold-in-Alex'-like refreshing beer together afterwards (the heat was around 35 degrees); buying loads of esoteric records in a street market (lots of 1970s and 1980s 45s from Moroccan record labels such as Boussiphone; Persian historical music on R.T.F.). When I was trying out one of the 45s, a bloke came over and said in French, 'I remember when this one came out, in 1984!' I could not even read the label, as it was in Arabic. But the highpoint was that today we saw a Purple Emperor butterfly. Amazing! I have been hoping to see one since I was ten. Never have done; they are both elusive and incredibly rare, to the extent that UK sightings are reckoned in tens or twenties each year. But today, as we swam in the pool and listened to The Stranglers Greatest Hits, this beautiful fellow fluttered down to make my forty-year-old wish come true. He stayed with us for a good ten minutes. I was wowed, entranced. Days like today are rare but they add up to what I call a proper holiday (in the Devon sense of the word 'proper' - everything it should & could be).

5 August 2018
The bloody Middle Ages - can't get away from them anywhere!

For the second year in a row, I come on holiday to the south of France, nip into the nearest village to buy a baguette and find a medieval fair going on around me. What is this? I can't escape the Middle Ages wherever I go. But as a cousin's husband told me, 'Ian, it's not just a First-World problem. It's a First-Person, First-World problem. You brought it on yourself.'

21 July 2018
Parkrun with my eldest son, Alexander

I'm very proud today as I ran the Hove Promenade parkrun with my eldest son, Alexander, and he ran the distance in under twenty minutes for the first time. He equalled my fastest 5K time, 19:47. I was a mere spectator, coming home almost a minute behind him. All hail Hove Promenade parkrun organisers, who marshalled no fewer than fifteen pacers for the day - every speed from 19 minutes to 33. Wonderful!

16 July 2018
The Outcasts of Time

Paperback copies of The Outcasts of Time arrived on my doorstep this morning. Very pleased with the way Simon & Schuster have produced them. I read last week in The Bookseller that the book was eleventh on the Audible.co.uk chart for June 2018, having been a daily deal at the start of the month. If you're looking for a thrilling plot-driven traditional historical novel, then this is not for you. But if you want to understand time passing in England from the fourteenth century until the twentieth, with many of the social continuities, changes and permanent life-affirming values that are to be found across those six hundred years, then please do give it a go. It does in a novel more or less what my time travellers' guides do in non-fiction.

29 June 2018
Documentary Enlightenment

Yesterday I gave a talk at the National Archives entitled 'Documentary Enlightenment: the death of Edward II and the principles of historical methodology'. In this I explained how the debate about the death of Edward II has come to act as a magnifiying glass on academic behaviour and methodological skills, and how arguments have been advanced in defiance of basic core priciples. I outlined eight principles within the 60 minutes I had at my disposal:

  1. Without evidence, there is no history.
  2. All historical argument must proceed from evidence.
  3. Written evidence is only as reliable as the information available to the author.
  4. Evidence never exists in isolation.
  5. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, except where a dataset is known to be complete.
  6. Motive is not evidence.
  7. Evidence is not proof.
  8. A circular argument indicates an unresolved conflict of evidence.

The text of the speech is freely available here (for a short period only).

25 June 2018
Torbay Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran the Torbay half marathon, with my friend the art historian Jonathan Camp (pictured with me below) and my son Alexander. All of us finished in under two hours, although I have to confess my time was four minutes outside my best. But my pace was the only slight negative. Great event, well organised, very friendly - and enormous fun to run with such company, and even to be persuaded to go for a swim in the sea straight afterwards. And then head for a pint in the most glorious Devon weather. And head home to enjoy Moretonhampstead's Music Day. Life doesn't get much better. Except that then I can get up and work on my speech, 'Documentary Enlightenment', for this coming Thursday, at the National Archives, which I am really enjoying. And editing my book, Why Running Matters, and working on The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain.

8 May 2018
Spring has finally come to Devon

It's taken its time but Spring has come to Dartmoor and once again we can all smile at the beauty of the this part of Devon. Went on a walk yesterday afternoon and took this snap between Moreton and Chagford, near Weeke. It sums up what I love about the area: the lushness of the grass, the curves of the hills, the freedom of the high moor, the ancient houses, the lack of modern interruptions, the feeling of timelessness and the sense of place.

20 April 2018
The Shakespeare Authorship Debate - reprised

I was asked to repeat my lecture on 'The Shakespeare Authorship Debate and Historical Responsibility' at the Reform Club yesterday. It seemed appropriate to write a short preface to explain why, which I have added to my essays page. The original speech, delivered in Exeter Cathedral in 2015, may be purchased from amazon.co.uk.

20 March 2018
... And after I complained about the heavy snow that came after the incessant rain...

... then we were blessed with even more snow. Oh, heavens! I'm going to be fat soon at this rate, stuck in doors and not running. Anyway, with that in mind, I did get out for a walk with my son Oliver (15). And it was well worthwhile, as this picture shows:

But after three days of staring at the white stuff, for the second time this year, the novelty started to wear off. So I resorted to photographing my new paperback standing in the garden.

3 March 2018
Well, I said I wanted it to stop raining...

... and so we get snow. Piles of it. Moretonhampstead is still cut off to all those who don't have a tractor or serious all-terrain vehicle. But it looks beautiful - which somewhat makes up for the incessant cold and the lack of opportunity to go running.

Meanwhile work on The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain continues apace. Fascinating period. I was amazed by Carl Moritz's accounts of the number of times he was refused accommodation at an inn because he was on foot, and the innkeepers presumed that pedestrians were basically vagabonds - even though Moritz was a German theologian and essayist. I don't think I'd have coped well with the class distinctions of the late eighteenth century, which seem more unnecessary than those of earlier times.

23 January 2018
I wish it would stop raining...

It seems I get wet every time I step outside my front door these days. I only have to glance wistfully at my walking boots and there's a downpour. So, as I don't much relish walking in the rain, I've been doing more running. This will be the third month in a row that I've run over a hundred miles.

On the writing front, work continues with The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain, although I'm still doing talks on the Restoration volume. Eksmo are going to bring out a Russian edition of my novel, The Outcasts of Time (which has just been published in the USA), and Piper Verlag are planning a German edition of my Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England - although they will call it 'Shakespeare's England' (with my blessing).

What was new in previous years