Ian Mortimer


What was new in 2018?

14 December 2018
The Winston Graham Prize for Historial Fiction

I am delighted to be able to reprt that my last novel, The Outcasts of Time has been awarded the 2018 Winston Graham Prize for Historical Fiction. I heard via email: I had just come back from a run in the dark and rain, and glanced at my computer, and saw a name I did not know and the word 'Congratulations' so I presumed it was a junk message that had somehow made its way through to my inbox. But then I saw the name 'Winston Graham' - a name beloved by me and many others who watched the 1970s TV series based on his books. Indeed, Winston Graham's novels were among the first historical fiction works I ever read. And then I read the attached letter and saw that my book had won the prize. I was so thrilled - partly because it feels terrific just to see my name linked with that of Winston Graham, partly because the book (which is somewhat experimental for a historical novel) had a very rocky road to publication, and partly for the immense satisfaction of having made people happy with my vision of time passing since the Middle Ages. I could have danced - I was so joyful. I am very grateful to Winston Graham's family and the Royal Cornwall Museum, who administer the prize, for conferring this honour on my work.

5 December 2018
Dr Ian Mortimer's Comedies, Histories & Tragedies

It gives me very great pleasure to announce the launch of my first CD! My son Alexander and I have taken advantage of the odd free moment over the last two years to record and remix some of the music I've written since 2008, concentrating on the upbeat and funny songs. Here you'll find 'The Guilty Party', which he and I have twice played on BBC Radio Devon and at many other venues in the area. Here too is a remixed version of 'It Doesn't Matter to Me', which was included on the compilation of local music, The Hawk and Hares. My version of Gerrard Winstanley's 'The Diggers' Song' is here too - on which I am playing 'crowbar and pickaxe' (as well as electric guitar, acoustic guitar and lead vocals). The last song on the album, 'If the Silence Hurts' reached the final round of the 2014 UK Songwriting competition for its lyrics. If you're buying a Christmas present for someone, you can be sure they don't already have a copy. And at £10.00, including UK postage, it won't break the bank. Click on the album cover below for more details.

3 December 2018
Christmas poem

It's that time of year again - the time when I have to write my annual piece of seasonal doggerel, which I've been doing now for at least 23 years. Normally I look at it as a chore, and stomp off for a walk, with gritted teeth, wishing I'd never started composing verse for my Christmas cards. On that walk I normally have an idea, and then the poem is done and dusted within an hour of returning home. The pressure is compounded by the fact that two of my best friends live in New Zealand and so I need to have written the piece by the end of November in order for them to receive it before 25 December. Frankly, in November I am still getting over the clocks going forward an hour; I am not ready to think about Christmas. This year, however, I looked at the words 'write Christmas poem' on my to-do list and had an idea for a first line, so I wrote it down, and that led to a second line... Before I could go for my stomp, the poem was more or less formed. What a relief! It's still rubbish - only one of my Christmas cards has actually been any good - but it will do the trick. All the Christmas card doggerel I've written and remembered to keep may be viewed here.

27 November 2018
Concert: Ennio Morricone at the O2 Arena, London

Last night I attended the London concert of Ennio Morricone's 'Sixty Years of Music' tour, at the O2 Arena in London. Such a special occasion. People might get a thrill out of being in the presence of royalty or celebrity but this was being in the presence of a living legend. Although he is now ninety, the great composer conducted the entire concert himself, starting at about 8:15 with 'The Legend of 1900' and going on through such favourites as 'Chi Mai' and the classic compositions for Sergio Leone's Westerns to later works and finally his music for 'The Mission'. And then four lots of encores, each one to a standing ovation. I rose from my seat at 10:49. I want to be like him when I am ninety.

26 November 2018
Revisiting Bickley Parva School

Last month I revisited Bickley Park School, which I attended from 1975 to 1980. I also nipped down the road to have a look at its junior department, then called Bickley Parva, where I was educated from 1972 to 1975. I made lots of notes about what I remembered from those visits: here are some reflections on revisiting Bickley Parva.

24 November 2018

My daughter tells me that a frind of her boyfriend has told her to tell me to update this page more often. Apparently it doesn't matter what I say, as long as I say something. So that has told me. I apologise to anyone who feels I have not provided enough news. I thought I was sparing you. I will try to do better in future.

14 October 2018
The Great West Run

I was looking forward to this half marathon until a couple of days ago, when the Met. Office changed their weather prediction to 97% certainty of rain. Heavy rain. And you know what? The heavens did not let them down. It was pouring when I left the house this morning. I parked in Exeter and walked to the arena, and sheltered under the stadium roof, chatting to one of the pacers, as I waited for the race to begin. When it did so, it was wet, but okay. Everyone was in great spirits too, perhaps brought a little closer together by the inclement weather. And for once I managed to restrain myself from starting too fast, sticking to just under 8 minutes per mile. I had to answer a call of nature after three miles, which lost me about 30 seconds, But otherwise all went well for the first half of the race. At about six miles I heard a fellow runner say 'hello, Ian!' and turned to see a friend, Richard, running along beside me. I hadn't seen him for a while, so we chatted for a few hundred yards, and then I felt I needed to move on a bit faster, so off I went. All was still going well at 9.4 miles but that is the start of the long haul up the hill past the University. I was dreading it. It's a mile-long incline. But I took it easy on the first part and kept going up the steep section, and still found I was overtaking people at the top. So that was encouraging. Shortly afterwards, I looked at my watch: I had done seventeen kilometres in 1:21:04. That was even more encouraging. My previous quickest time for this race was 1:43:58 in 2016; my fastest 13.1-mile time anywhere was 1:41:17 at the Torbay Half Marathon (also in 2016), so I only had to run the remaining four kilometres at a pace of 5:00/km to set a new all-time personal best. And with only two slight hills to hold me back, that was going to be easy. So I pressed on hard. I finished 345th in an official time of 1:40:25, which was very satisfying. If I hadn't had to use the loo, I'd have finished in under 1:40:00, which is no great shakes for a serious runner, I know, but it's not too shabby for a historian in his fifties.

11 October 2018
The Fears of Henry IV

The UK audiobook of The Fears of Henry IV, my biography of Henry IV (king of England 1399-1413), read by James Cameron Stewart, is published today by Whole Story audiobooks.

7 October 2018
Revisiting Bickley Park School

From 1972 to 1980 I attended Bickley Park School in Bromley, Kent. It was founded in 1918 (the first English teacher was Enid Blyton). To mark the centenary, the school held an open day for old boys: I went back to see the place. So too did the man who was headmaster when I was there, Edward Childs, who started teaching at the school in 1959 and became headmaster in 1963, four years before I was born. He always struck me as such an imposing figure when I was young. Here are the two of us together in the dining hall.

6 October 2018
The Perfect King

The UK audiobook of The Perfect King, my biography of Edward III (king of England 1327-1377), read by Alex Wyndham, is published today by Whole Story audiobooks.

5 October 2018
Researching a Time Traveller's Guide

The Folio Society asked me to write a short blog entry on how I set about researching a Time Traveller's Guide. They've edited my response for their website, so I've made my original available here.

3 October 2018
Dreams of a writer...

This is the sort of day that I always hoped I'd enjoy as a writer: sitting on the balcony in the sun, overlooking Dartmoor and reading the proof copy of my forthcoming book (Why Running Matters: lessons in life, pain and exhilaration - from 5K to the marathon, due for publication in March 2019). Ah, if only every day were like this. Unfortunately, about one day every two years is - and that's not only on account of the weather.

30 September 2018
Exmouth 10K

Ran the inaugural Exmouth 10K with my younger son, Oliver (15), this morning. I've done lots of longer races before but never a timed 10K. Thus it was a first for me as well as for him. Very well-organised event and a personal best over the distance for me, at 43:28, which is an Age Grade of 69.7% (or, taking the hill into consideration, 72.8%). I'm looking forward to next year's run already.

29 September 2018
Why Running Matters

Some people are surprised to hear that I run for exercise. I am not sure why they are surprised; most of us have to do something to keep fit. And for me, it is only natural that I should write about what I do. After all, I write about most aspects of life, in one century or another, so why not running? In the year 2017 I turned fifty and wrote a weekly memoir about the meaning of running with my family and friends: it will be published by Summersdale in paperback on 14 March 2019; the audiobook will be published by WF Howes.

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 finding 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 other years