About the Book

July 2019 update: the book, King Alfred: A Man on the Move, is now published and available from Amazon.

It all started one spring day in Winchester. I tagged along with my partner who had to go there to work for a day. I was at a loose end and had been to Winchester many times. I had seen the cathedral, the round table and so on. So, what should I do? I remembered reading that there had been an abbey at Hyde, just north of the centre, and that it was connected with King Alfred. So I worked out where it was and paid a visit to the location. In contrast to the cathedral, and the city centre generally, there was nobody else there but me. Yet this was  the site where perhaps the greatest king in the history of England had been buried. Surely this could not be correct. Where was everybody? A few weeks later I visited Athelney, the site where Alfred hid out before striking out to defeat the Vikings. There was nobody there either. Then I went to the little church at Aller, where the path of English history was sealed when Alfred baptised the Viking leader Guthrum, leading to a period of peace. You’ve got it – Nobody there either. The strong interest in history that I had always had became re-awakened as I found the experience of finding these places deeply involving and I felt that just being in these locations gave me a direct engagement with 9th century history. I am certain that people are interested in the Anglo-Saxons, and King Alfred in particular; everybody I speak to is genuinely interested.

It seemed to me that the problem was partly down to information on relevant sites not being readily available. Additionally, accurate locations for some historical events have not been established (e.g. the Battle of Ashdown) so it is easy to sink in a sea of alternative ideas or theories. A further problem that I came across was what today we might call mis-information (or even fake news?) Perhaps often well-intentioned, but over the past few centuries it appears that many places have wanted a slice of King Alfred, even if it means being over-optimistic with regard to the evidence.

I have tried to cut through all of this to produce something that facilitates better engagement with arguably our most important king by visiting locations that are associated with him. Where the location cannot be established, I put forward alternatives and invite the reader to engage in balancing the evidence.

So, join me on a romp from Wantage, Reading, Basing, London, the Somerset Levels and the Berkshire Downs, Kent, Wiltshire, Dorset, Exeter and other places besides. I truly hope that you benefit a connection and engagement with perhaps our greatest King, just like I have.

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3 Replies to “About the Book”

  1. J.H. Giles translation of Asser was well before 1906; it formed part of a book by him titled ‘Six Old English Chronicles’ and included Ethelwerd’s Chronicle, Gildas, Nennius, Richard of Cirencester, and the fictional Geoffrey of Monmouth.

    Have you come up with anything new regarding Alfred’s illness, claimed to be Crohn’s Disease, after the discovery of a letter from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, which mentions Aloe Vera. One Victorian biographer put forward, what I think is a better theory.

    I’ve never read Smythe’s book, and don’t think it was that popular as it inferred that virtually everything we know of Alfred is wrong. Regardless of what anyone discovers, I don’t think it will change the history that has been accepted for centuries. Some have suggested that the Battle of Hastings took place a few miles from Battle Abbey, the accepted site. Excavations at these others sites have failed to produce any evidence.

    1. Hi Robert, sorry about the delay in replying. The blog gets so much spam that I sometimes forget to go through it for genuine comments. I think it will be impossible for us to know what Alfred suffered from. Even going back to Victorian times diagnoses and cures sometimes need work in decoding. The sudden onset (on his wedding day) is interesting but could be many, many things.

      Smyth’s books (he wrote two that I am aware of that included Asser’s role in our knowledge of Alfred: “King Alfred the Great” and “The Medieval Life of Alfred the Great”). I think both are worth reading. Even if Asser did not write the Life of Alfred (which, at least at the moment, on balance, I think he did), it does not necessarily follow that the information is wrong.

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment.

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