Steven Donoghue in The Christian Science Monitor:
Pause for a moment from your rapt attention to this review of Ian Mortimer's terrific new book Millennium and look up. Look around you. Try to see the layers of time that blanket every feature of your world. It's a gambit that Mortimer employs often throughout his study of “how civilization has changed over a thousand years,” and it's unfailingly instructive. You're able to read this at all, in the first place, whereas for most of the previous thousand years, you probably wouldn't have been able to, unless you were a member of the clerical or landed elite. You're reading it in English, which no national publication would have used in the 11th century or for a good deal of time afterwards. The review is about a book, which scarcely anybody would have owned. Likewise the review assumes a common readership, which would have been forbidden – sometimes by fire or the rack – for more than half of the centuries under Mortimer's consideration. And if you're reading this on some kind of electronic device, we suddenly exclude all of history right up until the last twenty years. But it's more than that. One of the most bracing aspects of “Millennium” is the breadth of factors it covers, from food production to sanitation conditions to the Christian Church Militant to the development of firearms to radical changes in transportation of both people and products. If you employ a similar wide angle, the sheer scope of the changes Mortimer analyzes becomes staggering.
…The four core changes he identifies in his book, the “four primary sources underlying change over the last millennium,” are a) the weather in terms of how it affected food supply, the need for security, the fear of sickness, and the “desire for personal enrichment.” And the method Mortimer uses to track the fluctuating fortunes of these four core items (and plenty more) is at once thought-provoking and self-evidently artificial: He looks at each of the last 10 centuries as discreet, watertight eras and tries to assess the predominant changes each century saw that the others didn't see, prefacing the whole exercise with a smile-inducing bit of understatement: “Many of the important developments in Western culture do not fit neatly within the borders of a single century.”