Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval Europe

Don’t worry—the witch burning came much later!


If time travel were a practical option, would one be better off picking Pompeii a year before the eruption or Florence in the 1400s?


It’s probably just me, but if I could time travel, Id pick USA, second half of the 20th century…


First question for me would be: for how long? An afternoon? Rest of life? Until I press ‘Scotty, beam me up NOW’?

F’rinstance, how about Pompeii, first hours of eruption? Could be interesting. Then again…

As an adult? Adolescent? Alternate sex? This gets us into Second Life territory…


Yes, that’s like the Christian doctrine that we will all be “raised in the body”. Which body? I used to say I wouldn’t want to spend eternity as a size 18–but now, of course, the young girls favor adiposity.

I’d like to be inside Carpenter’s Hall when our forebears were debating the Declaration of Independence! But were there any women there, like, wenches passing negus or sump’n? That makes me wonder, as long as we’re choosing an era, could we choose the age and gender in which we’ll appear in the past?

Time travel is tricky. I’ve never read a novel in which it didn’t trip up the author if he or she tried to delve too deeply into all the implications. In Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, after trying unsuccessfully to prevent the Battle of Culloden, the characters conclude that although they can impact individual lives, they can’t change history.

This videotape is great. Very informative, lotsa information you wouldn’t think to ask about. I mean never mind TIME travel: just physically traveling from town to town in this era will be difficult enough! As the speaker points out, you’d be fair game when you’re away from your own social network. Like those visitors to Lot in Sodom.
In 1285 King Edward of England promulgated the Statute of Winchester, a sort of primitive 911 system, mandating all able- bodied men of a district (the Hundred) to give chase to a miscreant when the “hue and cry” was raised. And it had teeth: If they failed to get the evildoer they could all be punished for whatever he had done.


In Robert Kroese’s Iron Dragon series (here is my review of the first of the five volumes,The Dream of the Iron Dragon, and this is a link to the complete series on Amazon), he adopts a principle of historical consistency which works as follows. Any time travellers who appeared on Earth in our timeline were there, then, and did whatever they did in our own past. Therefore, nothing the time travellers can do can alter the recorded history and evidence of actions known in their own past. If they try, for example, to change the outcome of a battle recorded in history or assassinate historical figures prior to historically-recorded events in which they figure, events will conspire to thwart their attempts, because those things did not happen in the history recorded in the future from which they departed into the past.

This means that time travellers must be very careful in choosing their interactions with and nudges of the past to not have outcomes that differ from historically-recorded events, or to leave evidence that would have been found by people in the future. But what they can do, for example, is to act in conjunction with historical figures to ensure that events they consider important do come out the way they desire. Kroese uses this in a very clever way to weave the actions of his time travellers into historical events where history has recorded outcomes which seem to be miraculous or fantastically improbable. You see, they only seem so to historians because they didn’t know about the time travellers nudging things in the right direction.


Not just Medieval times. In Dickens “Tale of Two Cities”, English travelers from London to nearby Dover were subject to attack by highwaymen. And that was around 1800.

As to choosing the US in the second half of the 20th Century – we might want to narrow that down a bit. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s may represent the high point of the American Experiment – if we ignore Vietnam. After the well-intended creation of the EPA in 1970, things started to go downhill at an accelerating pace.


@Gavin:Yes. But I really think that may have been the high point. And many just didn’t know how good we had it.

I did know,I thought all the time how lucky I was to have been born in a time, and place, where most people’s biggest problem was getting too much to eat; where we didn’t have to anticipate that we might come home to find a severed limb or arm lying in our driveway…because war is I think the human default condition. Now that kinda peace and security is over, even here. We didn’t HAVE to do it, but we let the murderous rest of the world in.

@johnwalker : yes, that’s one solution: the time traveler already WAS there in the past, so whatever he does can ONLY engender the conditions he knows in his own time. I reckon you could say: what if he makes the wrong decision? Oh, but he CAN’T, right, in this scenario? It’s like Calvinism.