King Alfred the Great
By (author) Alfred P. Smyth
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King Alfred the Great by Alfred P. Smyth
Book DescriptionWarrior, 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.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780198229896
(243mm x 164mm x 49mm)
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 16-Nov-1995
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
Books By Author Alfred P. Smyth
Medieval Life of King Alfred the Great, Hardback (November 2001)
This is a translation by Alfred Smyth of the medieval "Life" of King Alfred. He argues that the "Life" is a forgery which has profound implications not only for our understanding of the early English and medieval past but also for the nature of biography and history.
Medieval Europeans, Paperback (June 1998)
Examines the origins of European ethnic groups which subsequently developed into the nations of Europe. This book looks at evidence for the existence of an ethnic consciousness among the dominant European groups; this later formed the basis of nation states.
Warlords and Holy Men, Paperback (June 1989)» View all books by Alfred P. Smyth
Basing his work strongly on documentary and archaeological sources, Alfred Smyth covers traditional topics in a thoroughly unconventional manner.
UK Kirkus Review » This is a major achievement of historical scholarship and likely to remain the last word on one of the most remarkable figures in English history. Professor Smyth's monumental biography of Alfred contains a number of significant re-evaluations which will have major implications for our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon period. Smyth argues that the Life of Alfred attributed to the king's tutor Asser is actually a medieval forgery. He shows that there was a much closer and earlier association than has previously been thought between Alfred's court and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and he firmly overturns the view of the king as an illiterate and an invalid. (Kirkus UK)
US Kirkus Review » 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. When Alfred came to power in the south of England at age 23, his grandfather, father, and four of his brothers had all been kings before him, and Anglo-Saxon society was facing its greatest challenge in the growing incursions of the Vikings and the seemingly invincible progress of the Great Army of Danes. Alfred not only turned the tide of war, so that his sons and grandsons could eventually unite the whole of England under one king, but he was also a scholar whose writings and translations constitute a treasury of Old English prose. Smyth (Medieval History/Univ. of Kent, England) tells how, on the basis of the anecdotal Life ascribed to the king's tutor, Asset, Alfred's reign became part of the English national myth during the Reformation under Elizabeth I and was further romanticized by the Victorians, who saw Alfred as the father of the British Empire. Smyth argues powerfully that Asset's work, which still occupies a central place in Alfredian historiography, was a medieval forgery, written in order to promote monastic reform and characterized by folk legends and literal interpretations of Alfred's rhetorical topoi. For a real picture of Alfred, urges Smyth, we need to turn to his own writings, to the charters of his reign, and to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 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. Very much a history for historians, Smyth's work is essential reading for students of Alfredian and early medieval England. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Alfred P. Smyth
Alfred P. Smyth is Professor of Medieval History, and Master of Keynes College at Kent University. Amongst his many books are: Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles (OUP, 1976), A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain (with A. Williams & D. Kirby, Seaby, 1987), Faith, Famine and Fatherland in the 19th-century Irish Midlands (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1992)
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