Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon by Richard P. Abels

By Richard P. Abels

This biography of Alfred the nice, king of the West Saxons (871-899), combines a delicate examining of the first resources with a cautious overview of the newest scholarly learn at the historical past and archaeology of ninth-century England. Alfred emerges from the pages of this biography as an exceptional warlord, an efficient and creative ruler, and a passionate pupil whose piety and highbrow interest led him to sponsor a cultural and non secular renaissance. Alfred's victories at the battlefield and his sweeping administrative recommendations not just preserved his local Wessex from viking conquest, yet started the method of political consolidation that may culminate within the production of the dominion of britain.

Alfred the good: conflict, Kingship and tradition in Anglo-Saxon England strips away the varnish of later interpretations to get well the old Alfredpragmatic, beneficiant, brutal, pious, scholarly in the context of his personal age.

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M. Stenton (O xford, 1970) pp. 106-15; idem, Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd ed n (Oxford, 1971) pp. 692-3; D. Whitelock, EHD I, pp. 123-4. C. Plum m er, Life and Times of Alfred the Great, pp. C. Davis, ‘Alfred the Great: propaganda an d tru th ’, History 56 (1971) pp. 169­ 82, repr. in his From Alfred the Great to Stephen (London, 1991) pp. 33­ 46. Cf. Keynes an d Lapidge, pp. 40-1. 16 INTRODUCTION lists, genealogies, records of eclipses, the works of Bede, Isidore, and Jerom e, and various o th er materials, the Chron­ icle retells in secular terms and from a distinctly West Saxon viewpoint the story that Bede began about the growth of unity am ong the tribes and peoples of England.

124-5. 42 As a result, Alfred’s death, which occurred on 26 O ctober 899, is recorded in the annal for 900. Alfred’s own writings afford unique insight into the m ind of the king, b u t they are no less problem atic a source than Asser’s Life or the Chronicle. The scholarly consensus is that Alfred personally translated Gregory the G reat’s Pastoral Care, Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy, St A ugustine’s Soliloquies, and the first fifty Psalms o f the Paris Psalter. *3 Alfred was also responsible for the issuance o f a law code and a brief preface to Bishop Wzerferth’s translation of the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, undertaken at his behest.

Ine 39; Alfred 37, § 1-2. Alfred 42, § 1-7. a 757. Alfred 30, § 1; 31. Alfred 43. Alfred 4 § 2. 35 ALFRED THE GREAT the nobility, the form er perhaps being landed nobles and the latter landless or of Welsh descent. The 200-shilling m en apparently described all free com m oners, ceorls, regardless of the size of their holdings or the extent o f th eir econom ic and personal freedom . An even m ore basic division was between freedom and servitude. Alfred’s Wessex was a slave society. 26 Since the routes to slavery included war, the penal system, and voluntary renunciation of freedom in time of famine, it would not be surprising if slaves outnum bered the free.

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