Chaucer’s London

 Ian Mortimer looks at a classic book

Author: AR Myers
Publisher: Amberley
Reviewed by: Ian Mortimer
Price (RRP): £9.99

 This book was acclaimed when it first appeared in 1972 as London in the Age of Chaucer, and again when it was republished in 1988. The question is: has it stood the test of time? 

Professor Myers (1912–1980) certainly knew his stuff. He could write too: his easy, uncluttered prose is still as readable as ever. 

In these respects the book is greatly to be recommended. However, while his judgments remain on the whole good, his approach is dated. He prioritises the government and organisation of the city, so the book lacks the immediacy expected by readers today. Most of all, it was not written as a guide to ‘everyday life’ but as a discussion of London in political as well as social terms, and this attempt to repackage it is not wholly successful. The worst aspect is the removal of the index. The addition of interesting illustrations is some compensation.

Dr Ian Mortimer is author of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England (Vintage, 2009)

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