Description - King Alfred the Great by Alfred P. Smyth
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.
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(243mm x 164mm x 49mm)
Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Book Reviews - King Alfred the Great by Alfred P. Smyth
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)