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Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy, consisting of The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye, and Ptolemy's Gate, is set in a version of our world (mainly London, with some scenes in Prague and the English countryside) in which magic and demons are real and the government and upper class consists entirely of magicians. Besides these facts, the setting is remarkably similar to the real world, and even certain real historical figures, most notably William Gladstone, also exist in this world.

Given this, it should be possible to get a ballpark figure for the year in which the series is set. Certainly after Gladstone's time (the late 19th century), but is it meant to be 'the present day' - the books were published in the early 2000s - or perhaps earlier or even later?

What information do we have on when the Bartimaeus books were set?

  • Wikipedia suggests that they're set in an alternate reality mashup of multiple anachronistic time-periods – Valorum Jun 28 '16 at 14:29
  • @Valorum Any evidence for the 'multiple' bit? I'm reasonably sure Gladstone's birth and death dates are confirmed during the pivotal chapter of book 2, and there must be a reference somewhere to how long ago Gladstone was, which will give the answer if anyone can find it. – Rand al'Thor Jun 28 '16 at 14:33
  • "Cleopatra's Needle: a sixty-foot Egyptian obelisk, weighing 180-odd tons, that has nothing to do with Cleopatra at all. I should know, since I was one of the workers who erected it for Tuthmosis III in 1475 B.C. As we'd plunked it in the sand at Heliopolis, I was rather surprised when I saw it in London 3,500 years later. I suppose someone pinched it. You can't take your eyes off anything these days." = 2025? – Valorum Jun 28 '16 at 14:36
  • @Valorum Assuming 3500 is a rounded value for a number between 3450 and 3550, or even 3250 and 3750, that does indeed give us a ballpark figure. I was hoping for something a little more precise though ... – Rand al'Thor Jun 28 '16 at 14:38
  • I believe Jonathan Stroud said in an interview that they were set in the modern day suggesting that the Amulet of Samarkand is set in 2003, Golem's Eye 2005 and Ptolemy's Gate 2007. – Bellerophon Oct 23 '16 at 16:28
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The events of the Bartimaeus trilogy happened in the then present day.

I would base this on the following from the second book:

"In all honesty, little girl, does Mr. Gladstone look alive to you?" "Er—not really." "'Not really...' The answer's no! No, he doesn't. Why? you ask. Because he's dead. A hundred and ten years dead and rotting in his grave.

Gladstone died in 1898. So 1898+110=2008.

This does not correspond exactly with the publishing date. But even if we take rounding into account the trilogy should have take place in the 2000s. Or if we are exact from 2000-2011.

  • Excellent find, thanks! Assuming 110 means between 105 and 115, and that Gladstone's dates are the same as in reality, that gives us a range of 2003-2013, which is as narrow as we can really hope for. – Rand al'Thor Jun 28 '16 at 15:04
  • @Randal'Thor - Is there any indication that Gladstone was born and died in the same years as the real world? – Valorum Jun 28 '16 at 15:16
  • @Valorum It seems likely, since he was a real historical figure and the books don't appear to have changed history significantly except by inserting magic and spirits into it. I don't know if there's any canonical proof. The prologue of book 2 tells us he was alive and at the height of his power in 1868, at least. – Rand al'Thor Jun 28 '16 at 15:21
  • The books themselves say that Gladstone belonged to the Victorian era, lata 19th century and that he ruled for 30 years - this is roughly equivalent to RL. – Martin Handrlica Jun 28 '16 at 15:44
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In the video below, Jonathan Stroud states that Bartimaeus's world is a parallel universe and also confirms that it is the 21st century there.

If it is a parallel universe then we can assume that 'The Amulet of Samarkand' is set at around the time of its publishing date (2003), placing 'The Golem's Eye' in 2005 and 'Ptolemy's Gate' in 2008.

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