London: A Travel Guide Through Time

This historical travel guide (512 pages) was published in October of 2016 by Penguin UK. The book takes you to London through the ages. David read London and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.



A Travel Guide Through Time

Matthew Green

If you’ve ever wished you could be a time traveler, Matthew Green is the tour guide that can make that happen. This romp through six periods of London’s history reads like an exhilarating travel guide and will transport you to the capital on the Thames.

You’ll visit Shakespeare’s theater in the 17th century and marvel at a jousting tournament in Medieval London. You’ll try to avoid catching the Black Death as you wander through the plague-struck city in the mid-1600s. You’ll hear the relentless clanking and banging of Victorian London — and you’ll see first-hand the devastation and regrowth of London after the Blitz in 1957.

Written as a guidebook, rather than a history tome, this book presents ‘tours’ of neighborhoods and times — the age of Shakespeare, medieval city life, plague, coffee houses, the reign of Victoria, and the Blitz — with writing that engages all five senses. You will vividly imagine how awful London must have smelled in the 1300s. Or how quiet the city must have been anytime before the Industrial Age. Author Matthew Green suggests what you might eat and where, where you might stay and under what conditions. Safety instructions for dubious neighborhoods are helpfully provided.

Famous people routinely drop into the pages, including a Who’s Who of English literature. There’s Shakespeare, of course, along with Chaucer and Samuel Pepys. You’ll discover where T.S. Elliot had his day job and the location that inspired George Orwell to create the Ministry of Truth.

But the magic is only part of the page. At the end of each section, Green explains where you can go now to see what’s left of the past. And if you want to go keeper, he’s included an extensive bibliography to lead you to other books, articles, and sights.

Pssst… Author Matthew Green offers a lavishly produced audio tour of London coffeehouses to help you discover what London sounded like 300 years ago and a video series on London history from 1390 to 1960.

The sound effects will impress and startle you. Pebbles rolling in a drum simulate the sound of waves crashing onto a shore (useful for The Tempest), dry peas falling onto a metal sheet conjures rain and frenzied backstage cries of ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ add more than a tincture of menace to battle scenes. At climactic moments, canons are fired from the roof. But it’s the clapping of thunder, more than anything else, that playhouses compete to perfect. Sometimes a sheet of metal is shaken vigorously and squibs let off; sometimes hirelings roll cannonballs around the gallery roof; on other occasions a drum is rolled across a sheet of metal. In a later period, at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, a playwright called John Dennis would invent an ingenious new method of feigning thunder for one of his plays which, to his great dismay, flopped. Attending a performance of Macbeth in the same theatre soon afterwards, his ears pricked up at the sound of his new effect. ‘That’s my thunder, by God!’ he is reported to have shouted. ‘How these rascals use me! They will not let my play run, but steal my thunder’. — Matthew Green

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