Saturday, March 13, 2010

18. Alfred the Great: the man who made England

By: Justin Pollard
Rated 5 Stars
From: Library

I was as looking for a biography of Alfred The Great that would come as close as possible to give some feel for what the real man must have been like. The man behind the legend so to speak. This book is an intriguing interpretation of what documents have survived and is probably as near as anyone is likely to come to capturing the essence of who he was as a person.

Between Cornwell's sour take and Joan Wolf's highly romantized one I wanted to know if any one had taken a scholarly approach. The really funny thing is that each one used the same sources and all three had the documented events spot on. It was when they started interpreting them that they all took off in different directions. A lesson to us all in how history can be spun without telling even a single lie.

The author is very straightforward in pointing out that the only real evidence that has survived consists of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, some charters (which Pollard reminds us more often that not have a good likelihood of having been forged), some of Alfred's own writings and translations and Asser's biography of Alfred on which he has relied heavily. Nevertheless Pollard has produced a very well written book that is not only credible (at least to me) but one that is so readable it's hard to put down. This is an author I will follow

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION:
Alfred was England's first king, and his rule spanned troubled times. As his shores sat under constant threat from Viking marauders, his life was similarly imperiled by conspiracies in his own court. He was an extraordinary character—a soldier, scholar, and statesman like no other in English history—and out of adversity he forged a new kind of nation. Justin Pollard's enthralling account strips back centuries of myth to reveal the individual behind the legend. He offers a radical new interpretation of what inspired Alfred to create England and how it has colored the nation's history to the present day.
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