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Alfred the Great: The King and His England (Phoenix Books) Paperback – October 15, 1958

ISBN-13: 978-0226167794 ISBN-10: 0226167798 Edition: Edition Unstated
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Eleanor Shipley Duckett was for many years professor of classics at Smith College. Her many books include The Gateway to the Middle Ages, Anglo-Saxon Saints and Scholars, Alcuin: Friend of Charlemagne, and Saint Dunstan of Canterbury.
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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Books
  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Edition Unstated edition (October 15, 1958)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226167798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226167794
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,408,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By NBuzard@aol.com on October 9, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book is outstanding. It draw a vibrant picture of a king whose life is otherwise obscured by the mists of time. Duckett presents a picture of a man who is simultaneously legendary and very human. This book is a wonderful choice for anyone interested in medieval times or the roots of British culture. Duckett's writing style is clean and consice, free of the usual scholarly jargon. It is a must for any student of history, amature or professional.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MarkK VINE VOICE on September 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Eleanor Shipley Duckett's biography is a useful introduction to Alfred the Great, the Wessex monarch who effectively created the kingdom of England. She begins with a description of the politics of ninth-century England, a world of maneuvering between regional kingdoms and invading Viking armies. It was in this dangerous and fluid environment that a young Alfred came of age, watching his father and two elder brothers deal with the threats Wessex faced before gaining the throne at the age of 22. From here her focus is on his struggles against the Danes, though other chapters also address his kingdom, his education, and his years after his many martial triumphs.

While enlightening, the book suffers from an excessive focus on narrative. As readable as Duckett's prose is, Her focus on recounting the chronological development of events too frequently comes at the cost of a clear understanding of Alfred's character and the significance of the developments of his life. Readers wanting to familiarize themselves with the basic details of Alfred's life will find this a useful and enjoyable book, but those seeking a more comprehensive analysis of the great Anglo-Saxon king would be better served by Richard Abels's more recent Alfred the Great: War, Culture and Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England (The Medieval World).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Atheen on August 29, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I chose to read a book about King Arthur followed by one on Alfred the Great. Talk about putting the post Roman period into perspective!

Both books are old ones, Leslie Alcock's Arthur's Britain (1971) and Eleanor Shipley Duckett's Alfred The Great The King and his England (1956). Both are superb, but of the two, Alcock's is the more thorough. Although there are doubtless things which have come to light about the time period of the two, roughly 400-900 A.D., I suspect that the general content of the history of the period is still unchanged by virtue of the lack of any substantially new information.

For Arthur there is still little more than the later medieval legends that we still enjoy hearing to illuminate his character. Whether he was a Romanized Britain serving a local king in the fight against invading Angles, Saxons, Juts and others, or a king as he is described in the later chronicles, we will probably never know. Even whether he was one man or a composite is up for grabs, although Alcock makes no bones about where he stands on this issue. Arthur's significance in his own time was dictated by the needs and interests of the period; his significance in ours is his model of a true and heroic king. These two aspects have little to do with one another.

What Alcock does in lieu of concrete data on Arthur the man, is to define with great clarity the character of his time. Alcock is an archaeologist and it shows, for he brings to life the information produced from habitation and defensive sites in a way that makes silent stones speak. His study of the character of pottery finds, their distribution, source and manufacture through time, suggests that the England of Arthur's time had lost much of its native industry and returned to local cottage industry.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Hawkinson VINE VOICE on December 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
Duckett's biography of King Alfred is an enjoyable and interesting read. We are drawn a picture of Alfred that shows how great a king he was to overcome the Danes from what little he had left. Duckett takes us from when he was a boy to his death with a fluid grace not easily found in biographers and their writings. Additionally, Duckett does well in interpreting the many stories and legends and presenting them in a way to give a real picture of Alfred, one of what really happened and one of what the stories and legends of the time thought of him. Her short commentaries of the travails that befell the Continent at the hands of the Vikings added a lot of insight and perspective as well.

There did seem to be two chapters out of place. King Alfred and His Earlier Translations and Later Translations. Both, it would seem, are important to King Alfred's life since he devoted much of it to translating texts into his native tongue. But analyzing the meaning of the books as well as the lives of those author's whose books Alfred translated did nothing more than take up space and waste time. Granted, it is important and would have been a great appendix, but it didn't seem to fit into the style of biography that Duckett wrote.

I, too, as Duckett mentioned at the end, would have liked to have seen some of Alfred's flaws interspersed with his attributes. But this isn't something that one can find easily, leaving us relying on what is available, notably Asser's rendition of Alfred. That being said I would definitely recommend this biography to everyone. If it weren't for the two chapters on translation I would have rated this a five star.

4 stars.
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Alfred the Great: The King and His England (Phoenix Books)
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