Alfred the Great: a reappraisal
In the popular imagination, Alfred the Great is the man who single-handedly forged the English nation while saving it from the Vikings. But in the rush to acclaim an Anglo-Saxon superhero, are we whitewashing the truth? Max Adams investigates...
Imagine the perfect Anglo-Saxon king. A man of intellect, a philosophical warrior-king who is devastating in battle yet magnanimous in victory. In the popular imagination, that man is King Alfred. He shines like a beacon out of the ninth century: a kind of Anglo-Saxon superhero, who single-handedly defeated the Vikings and united England under his rule (871–99).
But there’s a problem: this sounds too good to be true. And as a historian, when something sounds too good to be true, I want to take a closer look.