Synopses & Reviews
Soldier, statesman, and scholar, Alfred the Great was a fascinating and highly successful king, pushing back the Vikings to command what is now thought of as the heart of England as ruler of Wessex from 871-899. In this, the first major biography of King Alfred since 1902, his life, career and enduring legacy are given a radical new interpretation, putting into question most of our assumptions about this singular monarch.
Alfred P. Smyth's portrait of King Alfred rejects the image of a neurotic and invalid king who supposedly remained a pious illiterate until 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 see, 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. Smyth also provides a detailed examination of the much-disputed medieval biography of King Alfred, attributed to the King's tutor, Asser. Alfred Smyth argues that Asser's Life may, in fact, have been a late medieval forgery--a revelation with profound implications for our understanding of the whole of Anglo-Saxon history.
Smyth's King Alfred 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. (Smyth shows this work to have been much more closely connected with the court of King Alfred than previously realized and suggests a new date for the completion of the earliest Alfredian section of the Chronicle.) A monumental and intriguing work of historical scholarship, King Alfred the Great will dramatically change the way we understand this early period of western civilization.
"Medieval scholars and amateurs with a love of English history will find much here to inspire and delight them."--Booklist
"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."--Kirkus Reviews
Includes bibliographical references (p. -723) and index.
About the Author
Alfred P. Smyth
is Professor of Medieval History, and Master of Keynes College at the University of Kent.