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Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources (Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Asser , Simon Keynes , Michael Lapidge
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Book Description

Asser's Life of King Alfred, written in 893, is a revealing account of one of the greatest of medieval kings. Composed by a monk of St David's in Wales who became Bishop of Sherborne in Alfred's service and worked with him in his efforts to revive religion and learning in his kingdom, this life is among the earliest surviving royal biographies. It is an admiring account of King Alfred's life, written in absorbing detail - chronicling his battles against Viking invaders and his struggle to increase the strength and knowledge of his people, and to unite his people at a time of conflict, uncertainty and war.

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

About the Author

Little is known of Asser beyond this work. Simon Keynes is Reader in Anglo-Saxon History at Cambridge University. He is the author of The Diplomas of King Aethelred 'the Unready' and of numerous articles on Anglo-Saxon history. Michael Lapidge is Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Clare College. He has translated the Latin writings of Aldhelm and is the author of numerous books on Latin literature.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2069 KB
  • Print Length: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (July 1, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9ITM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,339 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alfred for High School Students July 4, 2001
By A Customer
The author of this book (Asser) was a contemporary of King Alfred's and was brought to Wessex (Alfred's kingdom) in the ninth century as part of Alfred's plan to improve education and culture in Anglo-Saxon England. The text is highly readable and gives students an eyewitness account of Alfred's kingship: military successes and failures (esp. fighting the Vikings), advancement of English culture and education, consolidation of the seven kingdoms, and cultivation of Christian kingship in the Early Middle Ages. This kind of book is especially fun for students to read as it shows us "real history," including things such as Alfred's 20-year fight with some sort of intestinal disorder. We see Alfred as a man, not just an aloof, wooden figure that died long ago. This edition also includes maps, geneological charts of the Carolingian (i.e., "French") kings and the English kings up to Alfred, and a 29-page introduction by Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge, which provides excellent background on the period in which Alfred and Asser lived. Also included are excerpts from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was begun in Alfred's reign, extracts of Alfred's own writings and translations, and miscellaneous primary sources such as letters, books, and documents of the era. These items make good backgrounding for teachers. When this biography is read together with the Arthurian legend, it helps students to compare the real and the ideal kings of the Middle Ages.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alfred the Great August 28, 2009
I am very fond of Penguin Classics, which combine a primary text with a thorough scholarly background. Sometimes I read part of the supplementary material, or none at all, or I read parts of it at my leisure later. In the case of this book, I read it in its entirety, from cover to cover.

Alfred was an extraordinary character. He had lifelong health problems of an unknown nature, yet was a proven and tenacious warrior. He reorganized his country's system of defense, and even designed a new type of ship to combat the Vikings (the details of which are tantalizingly unknown to us), yet he was also deeply interested in religious and literary matters, and fostered a renewal of learning and literacy in his kingdom.

When he took the throne, in 871, he was 23 years old, and the internal and international situation was deeply troublesome. Most of the petty Saxon and Angle kingdoms had "made peace" with the Vikings, a euphemistic term for paying them protection money in exchange for being left unmolested by the Viking armies. At the time of Alfred's ascension to the throne, in fact, a Viking army was more or less living year-round in Wessex. After a period of battling for survival, Alfred patiently gathered his strength for several years, finally uniting under his rule all English territories outside of the Viking Danelaw.

This book has more than 40 pages of introductory material, dealing with the historical background of Alfred's reign, including a portrait of his biographer Asser, as well as the numerous maps and genealogical tables one has come to expect from Penguin. The volume also includes extracts from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which are relevant to King Alfred, as well as from various charters, wills, and laws promulgated by him.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done sourcebook about Alfred the Great July 18, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alfred the Great is most popularly known as the king who burned the cakes. However, he was also the king who saved England from being entirely overrun by the Vikings, and he laid the groundwork for his daughter's campaigns which conquered the Viking settlements and territory in England. This book provides a great deal of insight on his life and accomplishments.

This book contains an extensive introduction which is substantially longer than any of the sources provided in the book, as well as the key contemporary sources regarding the life of Alfred the Great. These sources include the biography written of him by Bishop Asser, the relevant portions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, translation of key religious works translated into Old English by Alfred the Great himself, and finally various legal documents authored by him.

The book also includes an appendix which examines the authenticity of the cake-burning story among other things, and extensive end-notes that make up approximately half of the volume.

All in all, this is a well put together sourcebook regarding the life of what was arguably England's greatest king. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am not a historian.
Seemed like a good read that offers a contemporaneous look into the man about whom this period likely revolves. I will come to know more as I read more (reading Bede's "Ecclesiastic History of the English People" now). Although there are may acknowledged limitations in both this and Bede, it is a beginning and worth the effort and cost to me.
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