Ian Mortimer


What's New?

20 July 2017

It is gratifying to see some readers state how much they've enjoyed my new books, both in messages to my agent and in online reviews. Here's my pick of the professional reviewers' published comments for The Outcasts of Time and The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain. Some of the amazon.co.uk purchasers' comments are uplifting too (although one miserable 1-star one, about Outcasts which suggests I should 'return to the day job', is certainly not). One reader wrote to me via my agent remarking on the religious experience of reading Outcasts, which was a pleasing antidote to the miserable reviewer. Reflecting on Outcasts, although I'm not religious in the traditional sense of the word, it occurred to me that my direction in life and my faith in the past are so intertwined as to be pretty much the same thing. So the past is a sort of religion for me - in that I take great solace from the awareness of being part of the immense tide of humanity over the centuries. I was also pleased to read a review of Restoration Britain a couple of days ago by Professor William Gibson, in History Today. It ended with the words: 'This is a compelling book and one of considerable erudition. Mortimer quotes from familiar sources like Pepys, Evelyn, Fiennes and Thoresby but he has also undertaken impressive research in more obscure archives and sources. For the general reader interested in the world of Wren and Newton this is the book that will provide the most richly colourful account of Britain in this period.' I can't really ask for more than that, can I?

10 July 2017
Wimpole History Festival

I had a very enjoyable weekend at the inaugural Wimpole History Festival, speaking about The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain. Very well organised by Cathy from the Cambridge Literary Festival and her partners at the National Trust. Great conversations, with fellow writers David Olusoga and Annie Gray, among many others. And my own event was a sell-out too, which made it most enjoyable.

26 June 2017

It's always nice to be noted in your local paper, especially when it is for something other than planning permission. For this week sees the end of the three-month extension of my third and final term of office as a Secretary of State appointee to Dartmoor National Park Authority. Twelve and a half of the last fourteen years have been spent discussing everything from local planning to arts policy, heritage issues and conservation of the natural world. Therefore, as I came down bleary-eyed to my computer this morning, I smiled to see the local paper mention my outgoing status, in an article on the reception of my new book. They could have added that it is partly set on Dartmoor.

The reason for my bleary-eyedness was that yesterday I ran the Torbay Half-marathon, despite having done no training for it due to a femoral diaphysis stress fracture in my left leg. I injured myself in mid-April trying to run too far on hard surfaces and fractured a leg for the second time in eight months. Although not completely healed, I could not resist the challenge of seeing whether I could do the distance 'cold'. I did it - but very slowly, in 1:59:26. Almost twenty minutes slower than the same race last year. This morning I can feel the pain recurring too, so will be giving it a rest for a few days.

21 June 2017
Japanese edition

The Japanese edition of The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England is published today.

16 June 2017

The audiobook of The Outcasts of Time, narrated by Barnaby Edwards, is published today. It is also available though amazon.co.uk's Audible service.

15 June 2017
Publication Day!

The Outcasts of Time is published today.

12 June 2017

The last two days have seen me leap out of bed at 6:00am. This is not usual behaviour for me - especially on a Sunday. Yesterday my early start was for an early morning slot on Radio Two, from the BBC studio in Plymouth. Today was an interview with the charismatic Robert Elms for BBC Radio London, in the studio at Broadcasting House. Home now. And exhausted. Looking forward to publication day - Thursday.

9 June 2017
The Guardian review of The Outcasts of Time

'This is a joyously gruesome journey through English history, told with gusto and erudition,' says Suzi Feay.

3 June 2017
First published review of The Outcasts of Time

Normally it's a nail-baiting time, the days before the first review of a new book comes out. This time, however, I missed all the angst, as The Times produced a very early review of The Outcasts of Time. I was not expecting it until next weekend, at the earliest. Only a brief couple of paragraphs by Antonia Senior but all very positive, concluding: 'Beautifully written and superbly executed.'

2 June 2017
Hay-on-Wye Festival

Yesterday afternoon I was interviewed by Phil Rickman at the Hay festival. A bit of a palaver getting there, sprinting down a platform to cross to another one as I could see the train coming in, even though I'm not supposed to run anywhere at the moment. Now I have a painful knee to add to my stress fracture - I am falling apart, in my second flush of youth! But some lovely people there. One young lady from Taiwan had bought my Time Traveller's books in Chinese and wanted to read them in English - and so bought all three at Hay. Another charming woman from Switzerland similarly was a real fan, clutching several books. But my favourite line was a passing comment from someone who did not buy a book: 'I've never previously met an author who is as charming and engaging in person as on the page, but you are'. Wow! Please come to all my talks! Made up for failing to get supper before the long journey home.

Copies of The Outcasts of Time were supposed to be available. The publishers sent a box by motorcycle courier - but they did not arrive by 3:30, the end of the talk. I hung on until 5:00, then went for a last wander around the festival, and as I was leaving at 5:30, one of the bookshop staff rushed up to me with a large box. I signed the copies there and then, so the first copies went on sale at Hay yesterday evening.

Thanks to Ceri from The Bodley Head for taking the snap below of me looking very Svengali-like on the big screen.

25 May 2017
Interview about Millennium

Lewis Lapham, editor and publisher of the influential American intellectual journal, Lapham's Quarterly, interviewed me for 'The World in Time' last year. There were some technical hitches but a recording of this half-hour discussion is now available via Soundcloud.

24 May 2017
New book here, new audiobooks on the way

My author's copy of The Outcasts of Time has just arrived. Here it is, sitting proudly in my library.

Other news is that this afternoon I've signed the contracts for Tantor to bring out USA audiobooks of Henry IV the Righteous King and Henry V: the Warrior King of 1415. UK and Commonwealth audiobooks of these works will be produced in the not-too-distant future too.

I've also just signed the contracts for Taiwan to publish Chinese-language editions of The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan/Shakespeare's England and The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain.

And the sun is shining. A good day.

23 May 2017
Trailer for The Outcasts of Time

Simon and Schuster have produced some promotional videos for my novel, The Outcasts of Time, which is published on 15 June. See the links on the book's webpage - or just click on this Youtube link to hear me talking about the book.

22 May 2017
Bow Church

This evening I drove over to Bow Church, or Nymet Tracey, to talk about The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain. I do love the building, which is unashamedly unsymmetrical, with only one fifteenth-century aisle. The huge yew trees outside are amazing too. On the way home Sophie and I thought we'd drive a new route. 'That's a great sunset on our left,' said Sophie. 'On our left?' I answered, putting my foot on the brake. Anyway, we did eventually find our way home and so here is a picture of me speaking in Bow Church.

20 May 2017
Talking, not running

This is my first weekend this year without running, due to the stress fracture in my left leg. But rather than stay in bed, I got up and drove down to Bovey Tracey to do a stint as a volunteer marshal at Parke parkrun. I was thus able to take a few pictures of the run, which gave a new view of the whole event. I usually finish in about 23 or 24 minutes, and as the slowest runners are about 50 minutes, I think of myself as being more or less in the middle of the event. But of course, when you watch, nothing happens until the leader is in sight. So if he's running 19 minutes and mere mortals of my fitness are four or five minutes behind him, in the whole great sweep of runners, people like me don't appear to be so far back - only a few minutes into a half hour of people passing. Anyway, as I could not run today, here is a picture of the field being led down the path by young Jack Forrest (14), who eventually finished a gallant third in 20:31.

In the afternoon I drove down to Torquay Museum to do a talk on The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain. This was a fund raiser for this excellent institution, which holds (amongst other rare artefacts) the oldest human remains yet found in Great Britain, fron Kent's Cavern. It is also home to the Laycock Collection: a substantial and important collection of objects illustrative of everyday life in the 17th-19th centuries, which used to be housed at Laycock's house in Moretonhampstead (where I now live). This is me signing a copy of my book for Keith Yelland in the bookshop. (Can't believe I left without buying a furry woolly mammoth...)

15 May 2017
Recent events

Last weekend I went to Ludlow to attend the conference of the Mortimer History Society, which was an entertaining occasion. I took advantage of being away from home to do the Ludlow parkrun in Mortimer Forest and the Hereford half-marathon. Unfortunately I had very little sleep prior to both races (about two hours each night) and so was not exactly bouncy. I also have a leg injury. The physiotherapist came yesterday and told me I have a 'femoral diaphysis stress fracture' and should not be running at all. Given that, and the fact that every step is painful right now, I was pleased to complete the Hereford Half on Sunday, even if it was in my slowest ever time. Mind you, the physiotherapist told me many other things about the way I move that make me wish I'd spoken to him years ago. Every runner should get expert advice BEFORE getting injured.

In the meantime, I am writing pieces for the publication of my novel The Outcasts of Time, which comes out in just under a month. I'm also attending my last meetings of Dartmoor National Park Authority, which I leave at the end of June, reading for my book on Regency Britain, and doing publicity events for The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain. The next ones are in Torquay on Saturday afternoon and Nymet Tracey on Monday evening.

7 May 2017
Plymouth Local Studies Day

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to the Local Studies Day at the University of Plymouth. It was an interesting event. Unfortunately although I tend not to use images - and did not use a presentation on this occasion - the organisers chose to keep the backdrop image on screen. This meant that most of the audience could not see my face throughout the talk. Instead they were treated to a sort of Hammer Horror presentation, in which I was seen in silhouette and my shadow loomed large behind me, like that of a silent killer on the loose. Oh well. At least no one was bored.

5 May 2017
The Weald and Downland Museum, Singleton, West Sussex

One of my favorite museums in the UK asked me to give a talk on my latest book. It took place last night. The event sold out and I had great fun talking in the amazing Gridshell building about life in Britain in the late seventeenth century.

I particularly like the picture below, in which the tree's boughs follow the shape of the building...

I was also fortunate enough to nip along and photograph the museum's new reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon hall house, which I had not previously seen.

4 May 2017
A week of music

On Tuesday the violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved came to Moretonhampstead at my invitation, to play a candlelit concert in the church. The theme was to explore the virtuoso violin down the centuries, from the earliest music written for the solo instrument in about 1610 to the modern day. Peter played pieces from as early as 1580 and composed as recently as two weeks ago. Indeed, it perhaps set a record for the greatest difference in age of two premieres played at the same concert: the oldest premiere performance was a previously unknown score by a nun writing in Carinthia around 1670. There were so many highlights - old pieces by Purcell, Bach, Telemann and that anonymous nun; and stunning new ones such as 'Song' by Michael Alec Rose, and 'Alone' by Peter Sculthorpe. As the light started to dim, so that the only illumination was the two candelabra burning on either side of him, the experience of listening and watching in that ancient space was spellbinding. I am never going to forget it.

And here are the two of us in my garden the following morning.

On Wednesday, after I had driven Peter and his wife back to the train station in Exeter, I drove home in the sunshine listening to Radio Three. It was time for my Essential Classics programme, the episdoe in which I talk about the post-Black Death years. My first choice was Bone Jesu Dulcis Cunctis - a lament for the dead written for the Poor Clares (Franciscan nuns) in the fifteenth century. But I had never heard a proper recording, only live performances that I had organised myself. Radio Three kindly commissioned one specially from Hazel Askew and Victoria Couper - and the result was stunning. I stopped the car, and just sat there, looking across Dartmoor, listening to this music that had so inspired me since childhood. The second voice sings the tune that later became 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel'. In case you are interested, episodes are available to listen to again on the BBC website for 28 days.

1 May 2017
Essential Classics

The five episodes I recorded for the BBC Three series, Essential Classics, have started to be broadcast. The first, discussing the Reformation, went out today. Tomorrow (Tuesday 2nd) will look at the early medieval period; Wednesday will deal with the post-Black Death years; Thursday with the Renaissance; and Friday with two pieces of music that have inspired my writing. Episodes are available to listen to again for 28 days.

30 April 2017
What isn't history?

The Rosetta Books edition of my What isn't history? Selected articles and speeches on writing history and historical fiction is now available for download. In due course there will be a print edition but at present it is only available as an ebook.

4 April 2017
Essential Classics

Great fun today going up to London to record an appearance on 'Essential Classics'. Normally this programme sees a celebrity interviewed about his or her favourite classical music. Today, the producers decided to do something different, and to ask me to be the guest. The idea was that I would talk about the Reformation. Brilliant - but I decided it would be even better if I could turn the whole week into an exploration of history and music, to show how music can itself be historical evidence for appreciating the past and, at the same time, history can inform our appreciation of the music. I talked about early and late medieval music, Renaissance and inspirational classics. We were able to hold have a premiere recording of a piece of medieval music that otherwise is not available (which is ironic, considering you already know it, albeit in a different form). I came away wishing I could work more with radio. It really is the best broadcasting medium for history. Perhaps one day. My five episodes of Essential Classics will be broadcast on Radio Three on 1-5 May.

2 April 2017
Martin Simpson

On Friday I felt very privileged because the great guitarist and songwriter Martin Simpson came to Moretonhampstead to be my guest. I'd met Martin three years earlier at the Elizabethan Session, and had long hoped I could entice him to Moreton. I contacted his manager, a deal was struck, and he came to play in the church here - and the evening was simply fantastic. He played by the light of my candelabra to a full house (or full church) of two hundred people. Afterwards, a fair bit of wine was consumed in my dining room as we chatted late into the night. Next day, after breakfast, we had a snap taken before he headed off to his next concert. A memorable night, for all those who were lucky enough to be there.

31 March 2017
Early sales

I understand that, due to last weekend's very positive reviews of The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain, copies will be released early. Branches of Waterstones and independent bookshops don't have to wait for next Thursday but can start selling them as soon as they receive them; deliveries have been brought forward so they should be on the shelves today. Amazon is taking pre-publication orders of the book at a knock-down price of just £13.

28 March 2017

There are still places to hear my talk to launch The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain at Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter, on the afternoon of Monday 3 April. Phone Stuart Tyler on 01392 384253 to book a place. Books will be available for sale and I'll happily sign copies.

In addition, I'll be doing a one-off bookshop talk about the new Time Traveller's Guide in London on Tuesday 4 April at 6:30pm at the Waterstones in Hampstead. No reservation necessary.

26 March 2017

Great to read two very positive reviews of the new Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain in this weekend's newspapers - Andrew Taylor writing in The Times and Andrew Holgate in The Sunday Times.

14 March 2017
Bath Half Marathon

Regular readers might have picked up on the fact that I have resolved to run fifty races in this year I turn fifty: forty-five parkruns and five half marathons. The idea is that I write about each one. (For the introduction, see this page.) Two days ago I took part in the Bath Half Marathon - the first competitive long run I've done for five months and the first since stopping running to allow a hip injury to heal. If you click on the image of pain below, you'll read part of my description of the run - and find out why it hurt so much.

9 March 2017
Belated pride

My prep school, Bickley Park School, which I attended from 1975 to 1980, is coming up to its centenary next year. This has led to a renewed interest in contacting old boys from the school. When I received an email from one of the current teachers, Marcus Cash, I rather cheekily asked him if the old honours board was still up in the dining room. I used to look up at that huge board ('huge' as it seemed to me at the time), in awe of all the names of the boys who had won scholarships to their next schools from Bickley Park. My particular reason for asking was that, when I myself sat the scholarship exam for Eastbourne College in 1981, I had already left Bickley Park and therefore I had never seen my name printed in gold up there. Very kindly Marcus sent me a picture of my moment of glory - which I enjoyed seeing at last, albeit thirty-six years after the event.

8 March 2017

I'm tentatively thinking of writing a book about the meaning of running. A draft of the start of the introduction is available by clicking on the picture below.

In case you're wondering, yes, I have had running shirts made which show the cover of my new novel on the back and The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain on the front. I'll be wearing them at every parkrun and half-marathon I do for the next six months. If you see a 6-ft tall chap with my book on his chest or back, come and say hello.

7 March 2017
The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain

It's arrived! Here is a finished copy, received this morning, looking proper handsome alongside its brothers.

6 March 2017
The Outcasts of Time

Yesterday Richard and Jay came to my house and filmed me reading from The Outcasts of Time in my library. The book does not come out until 15 June but some advance reader copies have been distributed. The first reader to comment has hugely enjoyed it - see her review on Goodreads here. After the recordings, we headed out to film on the moor, at Scorhill, a stone circle that is crucial to the story, and at Exeter Cathedral. Scorhill saw us soaked to the skin and frozen in a very sharp hailstorm, with 30-40mph winds blowing ice into our faces. Exeter Cathedral - another main 'character' in the novel - was more clement. Richard took a picture of me at Scorhill just before the hail hit (below).

I've started putting together some webpages for the novel, including a section on the writing of the book.

28 February 2017
The launch of The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain

I have put up details of how to book a place for the launch of my new book at Devon Heritage Centre on 3 April 2017. Go to the events page of this website and use either the telephone number there or the email to reach Mr Stuart Tyler, who is in charge of the bookings for this event.

Every day I am tweeting a fact from the book on the official Time Traveller's Guides twitter feed. To see the first eight weeks' of messages, go to the TimeTravGuide twitter page.

14 February 2017
Update on news

I have not updated this page yet all year. Sorry. Been Busy. But by way of making amends, here is a photograph of the bound proofs of my two next books. I have to say, there is something extremely satisfying about having the proofs of TWO forthcoming books in your hands. One, The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain is non-fiction, due for publication on the 6 April; the other, The Outcasts of Time is a novel about two medieval brothers who travel forwards in time, which will appear on 15 June.

What else is news? I think I'd better make a list:

  • The launch for The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain will take place at Devon Heritage Centre on 3 April as part of an afternoon-long event arranged by the Friends of Devon's Archives (of which I am currently the chairman). This will involve a talk about the book by me, and will be open to the public for no charge - but you will need to register in advance with the Secretary of FoDA, Mr Stuart Tyler, to secure a place.
  • I've agreed to a short extension to my position on Dartmoor National Park Authority while DEFRA arranges the appointment of a replacement. I will thus stay on the committee until July.
  • This year I turn fifty so have set myself fifty New Year's Resolutions. So far I've only broken one - to answer every email I receive within the week. That was a tad optimistic. Others range from running 45 parkruns to listening to a newly released CD every month and playing my guitar every day.
  • As the above implies, my hip is almost recovered, I'm running again and planning to do the 'Bath Half' on 12 March, which will my next long run.
  • I have arranged a series of concerts to take place in the acoustically wonderful Moretonhampstead parish church. The idea is to draw in solo performers with an international reputation who can make the most of the space. The first concert on Friday 31 March will be the folk singer and guitarist, Martin Simpson. Tickets for that are already available on Eventbrite. The second concert will be the virtuoso violinist, Peter Sheppard Skaerved, on 2 May, playing music from five centuries on instruments dating from as far back as 1629.

What was new in previous years