You Wake Up and Find Yourself back In The 11th Century

"Even handwritten documents from the 17th Century are difficult to read." True but that's because they used "Secretary Hand" which is much harder to read than the writing of earlier and later periods. The obvious way around the language problem would be to learn Latin before you time travel, as I had to in school (Unfortunately I gave it up at the earliest opportunity). British doctors actually wrote prescriptions in Latin well into the 20th century, but by the time I trained as a nurse in the 1970s this was reduced to about ten common Latin abbreviations. The great thing about Latin was that it was a universal common language among educated people all over Western Europe, whereas local dialects of English might be incomprehensible in another part of England. Radio and state education played an enormous role in homogenising national languages, and still do today in countries that have recently become independent.

Simply knowing how to do long multiplication and division would be a very marketable skill. Examination of middle class peoples' notebooks from the 17th century shows that they would calculate say 15 x 65 by writing 65 in a column fifteen times and then adding them up!

You could also impress the nearest king by "inventing" the Vigenere cipher as this requires no technology and is really quite a simple idea, despite which no one thought of it till the 16th century.
 
"Even handwritten documents from the 17th Century are difficult to read." True but that's because they used "Secretary Hand" which is much harder to read than the writing of earlier and later periods. The obvious way around the language problem would be to learn Latin before you time travel, as I had to in school (Unfortunately I gave it up at the earliest opportunity). British doctors actually wrote prescriptions in Latin well into the 20th century, but by the time I trained as a nurse in the 1970s this was reduced to about ten common Latin abbreviations. The great thing about Latin was that it was a universal common language among educated people all over Western Europe, whereas local dialects of English might be incomprehensible in another part of England. Radio and state education played an enormous role in homogenising national languages, and still do today in countries that have recently become independent.

Simply knowing how to do long multiplication and division would be a very marketable skill. Examination of middle class peoples' notebooks from the 17th century shows that they would calculate say 15 x 65 by writing 65 in a column fifteen times and then adding them up!

You could also impress the nearest king by "inventing" the Vigenere cipher as this requires no technology and is really quite a simple idea, despite which no one thought of it till the 16th century.

One could get a job as a bookkeeper .:)
 
I still hold that you probably wouldn't survive all the bugs knocking around at the time. But assuming you did and extending @Aquilonian's mathematics ideas it occurs to me that if you could get hold of a serious mathematician or engineer - an architect maybe - you could impress by teaching them decimal notation (I learnt it as a kid after all) and the use of zero and the carpenters of the day would certainly have been able to make you a functional slide rule. Both would have been revolutionary back then!
 
My first question would be , Where is the Internet ? :D
 
Eh, pretty much every court at the time employed some kind of magician. In the Roman empire itself the cultural mood was pretty humanistic in the 11th century.

In the 11th century, the courts were run by the likes of Theodoric of York. ;)
 
The Cynicism expressed above re A Connecticut Yankee sits very well with me. Knowing (or being able to calculate) the occasion of an eclipse after being dumped in a strange society is more than a stretch. Not to mention designing bicycles.
I am a little surprised that no one has brought up the classic Lest Darkness Fall, by DeCamp, a favorite of my youth. Of course the skills brought back to 538 AD in that book, a similar date to that of Yankee, dwarf the Twain. Everything from battle tactics to distilling and optics. But Twain's book is a burlesque of romanticism about the past. DeCamp's a celebration of the modern capable man.
The discussion about transferred literacy was interesting but assumes (as debunked above) that a stranger would be accepted into a literate, presumably monastic, environment.
Although I doubt that a modern archaeologist would have anything to teach Belisarius, as is the case in Lest, it does seem that achieving some sort of temporal power and then introducing social and technical change would be more practical than what is described by Twain.
But it's all fancies used to comment on the past, so practicality is in the eye of the reader.
 
Try to stay well away from any major population center.

I likely have little resistance to some of the bugs kicking around back then, yes, but it's a two-way street - I'm likely extremely resistant to (but still carrying) quite a few diseases that Medieval Europeans have no resistance to. Forget communicating, spending any real amount of time around people of that era in any decent quantity would likely lead to me kicking off a pandemic.
 
Gunpowder began to be used in 13th century Europe.

Memorize the fairly simple formula for gunpowder and the Latin words for its components. You're set for life and will live like a king, perhaps literally.

And you've also forever altered human history by early introduction of a simple but vital technology.
 
I still hold that you probably wouldn't survive all the bugs knocking around at the time. But assuming you did and extending @Aquilonian's mathematics ideas it occurs to me that if you could get hold of a serious mathematician or engineer - an architect maybe - you could impress by teaching them decimal notation (I learnt it as a kid after all) and the use of zero and the carpenters of the day would certainly have been able to make you a functional slide rule. Both would have been revolutionary back then!
Apparently Fibonacci introduced zero to mathematics in 1200 AD. That is a good opportunity to beat him to the punch.
 
Guns and first started appearing around the 14th century, which would be one of the factors which lead to the demise of suits armor.
 
Last edited:
Apparently Fibonacci introduced zero to mathematics in 1200 AD. That is a good opportunity to beat him to the punch.
I thought the Indians invented zero (with it being described as part of the Arabian numerals as it was transmitted to Europe via Arabia)?
 
I thought the Indians invented zero (with it being described as part of the Arabian numerals as it was transmitted to Europe via Arabia)?
He said 'introduced' not invented:
The number zero as we know it arrived in the West circa 1200, most famously delivered by Italian mathematician Fibonacci (aka Leonardo of Pisa), who brought it, along with the rest of the Arabic numerals, back from his travels to north Africa. But the history of zero, both as a concept and a number, stretches far deeper into history—so deep, in fact, that its provenance is difficult to nail down.
 
Another thing that I don't think has been considered yet (and not in any SF story that I've read or watched) your height is going to make you stand out.

I've been looking through a few 1914 British Army Attestations - that's only 110 years ago, and yet the average height of 16 year-old men is about 5ft 4 maybe 5ft 5 which would be considered quite short today. If you go back earlier the combination of poor diets (mainly lack of vitamins) and childhood diseases mean that average heights were even shorter.

Now if I look at all my friend's sons and daughters, they are quite a lot taller than their parents and they were even as teenagers. If my son was to wake up and find himself back in the 11th Century then he would tower over everyone there, but even any average person today is going to appear unusual. They will have to bend down just to get through any doors, and walking around in most buildings will require bending down and frequently banging your head on beams. You only need to visit open air museums or old houses to realise this.

You are going to be thought of as a giant. This might be useful to gain some kinds of employment, or to make those contacts (that people have discussed being absolutely necessary in this thread) but what it isn't going to allow is for you to remain incognito. However you disguise your complexion (lack of pox scars) or your accent/grammar, you are never going to disguise your height. You will get noticed in a crowd.
 

Back
Top