Alfred The Great Research Paper

In the last century or so, historians have taken more opportunities to offer overviews of Alfred and his milieu than literary scholars. Historians have more documentary evidence with which to work, especially given Carolingian connections. Literary scholars have until recently worked on Beowulf and other poetry to the exclusion of prose, Alfredian or otherwise. Keynes and Lapidge 1983 should be the first stop in any study, as it offers authoritative translations of texts in literature or in history with balanced judgments reflecting the traditional view of Alfred and his achievements. In Keynes and Lapidge 1983, there is an easy entry into Asser’s biography, which is the fundamental reference point for the study of Alfred. A concise introduction to Alfredian literature is available in Greenfield and Calder 1986. Abels 1998 gives an updated single-volume history, as does Sturdy 1995 that considers Alfred “a philosopher king” and “the supreme figure of a heroic age.” Peddie 1999 studies Alfred’s military campaigns and the military problems that beset him. Smyth 2002 continues contemporary controversy on the history side, and his translation and commentary on Asser reflect the author’s view that the text of Asser is a forgery. Hinton 1977 allows material culture to complement textual evidence for a wider view of Alfred and Wessex.

  • Abels, Richard. Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England. London and New York: Longman, 1998.

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    Upholds the traditional view of Alfred as warrior and as lover of wisdom while arguing for the importance of Asser’s Life.

  • Discenza, Nicole Guenther, and Paul E. Szarmach, eds. A Companion to Alfred the Great. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    This Oxford Bibliographies article discusses works attributed to Alfred as well as works no longer attributed to him. This corpus as a whole is the subject of A Companion to Alfred the Great. The contributors are Simon Keynes, “Alfred the Great and the Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons”; Leslie Webster, “The Art of Alfred and His Times”; Rosalind Love, “Latin Commentaries on Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy”; Janet M. Bately, “Alfred as Author and Translator” and “The Orosius”; Susan Irvine, “Alfredian Prefaces and Epilogues” and “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”; Carolin Schreiber, “Searoðonca Hord: Alfred’s Translation of Gregory the Great’s Regula Pastoralis”; Nicole Guenther Discenza, “The Old English Boethius”; Paul E. Szarmach, “Augustine’s Soliloquia in Old English”; Patrick P. O’Neill, “The Prose Translation of Psalms 1–50”; Mary Richards, “The Laws of Alfred and Ine”; and David F. Johnson, “Alfredian Apocrypha: The Dialogues and the Bede.”

  • Greenfield, Stanley B., and Daniel G. Calder, with Michael Lapidge. “The Alfredian Translations and Related Ninth-Century Texts.” In A New Critical History of Old English Literature. Edited by Stanley Greenfield and Daniel G. Calder, 38–67. New York: New York University Press, 1986.

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    Still a generally serviceable account of how literary scholars approach Alfred’s apparent corpus.

  • Hinton, David. A. Alfred’s Kingdom: Wessex and the South, 800–1500. London: J. M. Dent, 1977.

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    An important early study based on archaeological evidence.

  • Horspool, David. Burnt Cakes and Other Legends. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

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    Cheerfully revisionist, Horspool seeks to describe how myth and reality combined to create the figure of Alfred.

  • Keynes, Simon, and Michael Lapidge, trans. Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1983.

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    The introduction, texts translated, and supplementary material make this volume an almost obligatory “first book” in the study of Alfred.

  • Peddie, John. Alfred: Warrior King. Thrupp, Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1999.

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    “Not yet another history of the life and times” of Alfred.

  • Smyth, Alfred P., trans. The Medieval Life of King Alfred the Great: A Translation and Commentary on the Text Attributed to Asser. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Follows up on his 1995 biography of Alfred and sees the Life, allegedly by Asser, as a medieval forgery written by Byrhtferth of Ramsey c. 1000.

  • Sturdy, David. Alfred the Great. London: Constable, 1995.

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    The “backbone” of the book is a new translation of the Chronicle printed throughout the book.

  • 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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