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King Alfred the Great (Hardback)
  • King Alfred the Great (Hardback)
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King Alfred the Great (Hardback)

(author)
£167.50
Hardback 770 Pages / Published: 16/11/1995
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Warrior, law-giver, and scholar, Alfred the Great was an extraordinarily gifted and highly successful king, pushing back the Vikings to preserve what is now thought of as the heart of England. In this, the first major study of King Alfred since Plummer's biography of 1902, the career of King Alfred is followed chronologically and examined in depth. The author provides a detailed examination of the much-disputed medieval biography of King Alfred, attributed to the king's tutor, Asser. Professor Smyth argues that Asser's Life is a medieval forgery; a revelation with profound implications for our understanding of the whole of Anglo-Saxon history. The book also contains major studies on the writings of this gifted king, on the controversial charters of his reign, and on the origins of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. Professor Smyth shows the Chronicle to have been much more closely connected with the court of King Alfred than has hitherto been allowed, and suggests a new date for the completion of the earliest Alfredian section of the Chronicle. The author also provides a fundamental reassessment of Alfred's military and political achievement in his wars against the Vikings, and compares the experiences of the English king with those of his Frankish contemporaries in their struggle with the same enemy on the other side of the English Channel. Professor Smyth's portrait of Alfred rejects the image of a neurotic and invalid king who supposedly remained a pious illiterate till he was almost 40. Instead, we are shown a man of remarkable energy and intelligence who took necessary steps to defend his people from the Norsemen. We are shown too, a king who had been a scholar all his life and who used his great knowledge to bolster the powers of his own kingship, and to overcome his enemies. Jacket illustration: Initial depicting King Alfred taken from the British Library Manuscript Cotton Claudius D.ii, f.8. This sumptuous compilation contains a collection of Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and Angevin law- codes (Liber legum antiquorum regum) which can be precisely dated to 1321. The inclusion of a Latin translation of the Laws of King Alfred indicates the esteem in which Alfred was held as a law-giver in the high Middle Ages.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780198229896
Number of pages: 770
Weight: 1382 g
Dimensions: 243 x 164 x 49 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
This is certainly a compelling thesis (and, for specialists, a riveting read) ... * Sunday Telegraph *
...monumental and polemical biography...Smyth's dismissal of Asser allows him to present a more convincing picture of an early medieval king...Smyth's detailed and pugnaciously argued book shows a conception of scholarship as a battlefield similar to the "killing grounds" of the Viking wars. * The Guardian *
helpful scholarly references abound...Sturdy writes interestingly on the whole notion of the heroic age... * Antonia Fraser, The Sunday Times *
...elaborate and impressive study...It provides a most interesting account of academic scholarship...Smyth does manage to grasp the elusive figure of the real King named Alfred. This is in every sense a magisterial work, with some 600 pages of detailed and clearly arfued narrative. * The Times *
a formidable work * London Review of Books *
This substantial piece of scholarship challenges traditional academic wisdom surrounding the ninth century king of Wessex whose achievements changed the course of English history prior to the Norman Conquest...the Alfred who emerges is a man of genuine piety, extraordinary intellectual and emotional resilience, as well as great physical stamina. Throughout, Smyth remains in serene command of both his complex sources and of the English language...essential reading for students of Alfredian and early medieval England * Kirkus Reviews *
engrossing...medieval scholars and amateurs with a love of English history will find much here to inspire them. * Booklist *
A major study of the life and achievements of Alfred ... Controversial, extremely detailed, very interesting. * The Medieval World *
The key part of his work is an elaborate argument to show that the contemporary Life of Alfred, attributed to Asser, is a forgery, worthless as evidence for the King and the events of his reign.....The case is argued in grreat detail, and deserves more thorough consideration than can be given in a brief review. * Times Literary Supplement *
There are excellent reconstructions of Alfred's wars with the Vikings, taking into account insights provided by contemporary Frankish annals ... anyone already familiar with the reign of Alfred is going to find many of their preconceptions challenged and that is no bad thing. * Barbara Yorke, History Today *

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