Was Alfred so ‘Great’? A Comparative Study.

Smith, C. (2022) Was Alfred so ‘Great’? A Comparative Study. Undergraduate theses, University of Chichester.

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Alfred the Great is one of the most renowned kings in history and is known for defending Wessex against the Viking invasion. He is the only English king to have received the title of ‘Great’. Born in 849, in Wantage as the son of Aethelwulf,1 it was unlikely he would have been considered a candidate for kingship.2 Alfred’s brothers all became kings of Wessex, and had experience in ruling Kent, unlike Alfred,3 who succeeded the throne after the death of his brother, Aethelred, in 871.4 If Aethelred lived longer, his sons Aethelwald and Aethelhelm would have become king rather than Alfred.5 Alfred is noted for a number of achievements, including the defeat and defence of Wessex against the Viking invasion, as well as introducing reforms changing education, which was an aim of his,6 and the governing of Wessex. Alfred managed to implement rewarding reforms and defended Wessex against the ongoing Viking invasion that had plagued his kingdom since 793.7 However, his building of the burhs, which were fortresses, has been regarded as his most significant and lasting achievement.8 Yet a recent archaeological find brings to question not only the events and relations of his reigns, but also the validity of his sources. Alfred’s contemporary sources are many and have a role to play for the credit and recognition he has received over the years. On top of this, questions regarding exactly when the burhs were built and used have been recently investigated, uncovering new information, therefore questioning what is considered his greatest achievement. Alfred’s children, Edward the Elder and Æthelflæd,9 and his grandson,10 Athelstan, are significant in determining the worth of Alfred’s title, as they also accomplished many great feats and impacted what is now known as England. Therefore, with the recent findings regarding Alfred, and the lack of credit given to his children and grandson, they too need the recognition they deserve. Athelstan is often overlooked given his reputation yet has arguably greater achievements than Alfred.

Publication Type: Theses (Undergraduate)
Additional Information: A dissertation submitted in part fulfilment of the BA (Hons) Medieval and Early Modern History.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alfred the Great, Reputation
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Academic Areas > Institute of Arts and Humanities > History
Student Research > Undergraduate
Depositing User: Gail Graffham
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2022 11:49
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2022 11:49
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/6618

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