The Library

Dr Ian Mortimer

Dr Ian Mortimer comes from an old Devon family but was born in Kent. He was educated at Eastbourne College (Sussex), the University of Exeter (BA, PhD & DLitt) and University College London (MA). Between 1991 and 2003 he worked for a succession of archive and historical research organisations, including Devon Record Office, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts and the universities of Exeter and Reading. He is a qualified archivist, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; he was awarded the Alexander Prize by the Royal Historical Society in 2004 for his work on the social history of medicine.

He is one of the most innovative historians working today, pushing the boundaries of both literary form and historical methodology. He is best known for writing The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England and The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, which introduce readers to a historical period as if they could really go there. Both of these books were Sunday Times bestsellers. The Elizabethan volume was turned into a BBC2 series in 2013. A third book in the series – The Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain, 1660-99 – is in progress.

Although he has been described by The Times asthe most remarkable medieval historian of our time’, he has published peer-reviewed articles dealing with an aspect of English history for every century from the eleventh to the twentieth. His latest book, Human Race: 10 Centuries of Change on Earth, asks the question, which of the last ten centuries saw the most change in the Western World? Thought-provoking and controversial, he identifies fifty of the greatest shifts in society over the last millennium and considers their meanings for the way life has developed in the West. In addition, venturing beyond the present, he shows how the lessons of the past have some powerful messages for us in the future, addicted to our unsustainable way of life.

He is also the author of a sequence of four interlinking historical biographies, which collectively trace the thread of power in England from 1307 to 1415: The Greatest Traitor: the Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-30 (2003); The Perfect King: the Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation (2006); The Fears of Henry IV (2007); and 1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory (2009). A fifth volume in the sequence, The Warrior of the Roses: the Life of Richard Duke of York is under contract. A volume of essays, Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Medieval Conspiracies, provides the in-depth scholarly arguments underpinning the most important revisions in the sequence, not least of which is ‘The Death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle’ (first published in the English Historical Review in 2005), which shows how the story of Edward II’s death was a falsehood promulgated by his keeper, Lord Berkeley.

With his fiction-writing hat on, under the name James Forrester (his middle names), he has published a trilogy of thrillers set in the 1560s concerning a secret document in the possession of William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms: Sacred Treason (2010), The Roots of Betrayal (2011) and  The Final Sacrament (2012). In addition, he has recently completed a time-travelling novel, The Outcasts of Time, set in the years 1348, 1447, 1546, 1645, 1744, 1843 and 1942.

He lives with his wife and three children in a medieval house on the north-eastern edge of Dartmoor (Devon). Further information is available on his website, www.ianmortimer.com.