Alfred the Great: do we overplay his ‘greatness’?

Did the Anglo-Saxon icon owe his success to serendipity? Alex Burghart asks if we're guilty of overplaying Alfred's greatness

Hamo Thornycroft's 1901 statue of King Alfred the Great in Winchester. Acknowledging the good fortune played a role in Alfred's reign is important, says Alex Burghart, "as it reveals just how fragile the conditions were that surrounded the birth of England." (Photo by RDImages/Epics/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the December 2013 issue of BBC History Magazine 

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