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Book Review: How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life By Ruth Goodman

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You know the old ice breaker, “If you could do anything for a job, regardless of money or training, what would you want to do?” My answer was always to be someone like Martha Stewart (minus the prison stint) but then I met Ruth Goodman through the “Farm Series” and I found a new dream.

If you’ve never seen these fantastic British documentaries, let me recommend them now. Basically, each documentary takes place during a specific time period for one year. The archeologists and historians involved “live” for the year using the tools, methods and beliefs of that time period. They’ve experienced the Stuart period, farming during WWII, working for a monastery during the Tudor period, Victorian life and the modernizing of Edwardian times. These series truly humanize your history textbook and are incredibly entertaining. For my history loving, answer seeking self, they are perfect.

Ruth Goodman is one of the presenters on the show and the one who typically showcases the plight of a woman during each time period focusing on all aspects of domestic life. She not only tells the story but she actually lives it out. This experimental archeology is exactly that, an experiment. We can read and guess all we want but until we try something for ourselves how do we know? Ruth has tried it all which is what makes this book fascinating. Yes, she tells you the history of the Tudor period but she tells you her experiences with that in the real world.

She goes through the day of a Tudor person, looking at everything from hygiene and food, to illness and sex. She brings in historic records and real life tales to expound upon what is known about this time. Her descriptions truly make the history come alive and is a far cry from a history textbook. This is not Goodman’s only publication and it won’t be the last that I read. I can’t recommend it enough or her other projects so give them a shot!


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