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 studying of the first resources with a cautious overview of the newest scholarly examine at the historical past and archaeology of ninth-century England. Alfred emerges from the pages of this biography as an excellent warlord, a good and creative ruler, and a passionate student whose piety and highbrow interest led him to sponsor a cultural and religious renaissance. Alfred's victories at the battlefield and his sweeping administrative thoughts not just preserved his local Wessex from viking conquest, yet started the method of political consolidation that might culminate within the construction of the dominion of britain.

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

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9 3 -4 . Cf. P. Brooks, The Early History of the Church of Canterbury (Leicester, 1984) p. 327 for royal styles. 31 ALFRED THE GREAT himself, interestingly, did n o t distinguish in his diplomas between his rule over Wessex and Kent. In bo th he issued charters in the early years of his reign as ‘king o f the Saxons’ and later, after he added p art o f Mercia to his dom inion, as ‘king o f the Anglo-Saxons’. E gbert’s assumption o f power in Kent and the southeast was facilitated by the support of a large segm ent o f the local nobility, who becam e the mainstay o f West Saxon rule in the region.

The king’s presence was felt at each level of the donation, since the land was n o t merely lent out but ‘booked’, that is, conveyed as a hereditary pro p ­ erty and freed of many onerous services and dues normally owed the king. In the gift-giving culture o f ninth-century England, King iEthelwulf’s grant n o t only reinforced his ties with Eadred and E ad red ’s with his neighbours, b u t con­ firm ed o r created bonds of m utual obligation and friendship 14. T he flow of gifts to Canterbury d ried up, n o t to be restored until Egbert, n ea r death, sought the support o f A rchbishop C eolnoth for his son’s succession.

After M atthew Parker, A rchbishop o f C anterbury (1559-75), its on e­ tim e owner, the m anuscript is now at Corpus Christi College, Cam­ bridge, MS. 173. For studies o f MS. A, see The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, gen. N. D. Keynes, Vol 3: MS. A, ed. M. Bately (Cam bridge, 1986) pp. N. Dumville, ‘T he Anglo-Saxon Chronicle an d the Origins of English Square Minus­ cule Script’, in his Wessex and England from Alfred to Edgar: Six Essays on Political, Cultural, and Ecclesiastical Revival (W oodbridge, Suffolk, 1992) pp.

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