• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Why Was King Alfred So Great?

Extracts from this document...


Why Was King Alfred So Great? Alfred 'The Great', King of Wessex between the years 871-899, is often cited and widely considered as 'one of the greatest and noblest monarchs England has ever had'1. Alfred is predominantly noted for both; his successful defence of Wessex against the Danish Vikings as well as the creation of the Danelaw following Alfred's victory in the Battle of Edington. However, Alfred was not only focused on military success and as a great social reformer he brought many more changes to the country. This was principally through the three focal issues of education, law and settlement. Militarily, Alfred was renowned for his tactical genius and battle presence, and after the establishment of the Danelaw, the reforms that he brought to both the army and the navy. His most notable achievement was of course, the defeat of the Vikings at Edington. After the death of Alfred's brother King Ethelred in April 871 the Vikings pushed forward through Mercia and into Wessex, eventually forcing Alfred to retreat 'with a small force into the wilderness'2. After gaining gathering local militia from the surrounding regions of Wiltshire, Somerset and Hampshire, Alfred defeated Guthrum the Old and thus signed a treaty outlining the Danelaw and (in theory) securing both Wessex and Mercia for the Anglo-Saxons. The fact that Alfred managed to defeat Guthrum's organised and confident army after their successful conquest of nearby Chippenham, is somewhat remarkable, especially considering that his force consisted of mere untrained locals. ...read more.


For Alfred to successfully organise something so complex with very basic methods of communication and organisation must have taken very delicate planning, implementation and intelligence, another running theme in Alfred's accomplishments. Alfred's military and social policies meet at the construction of buhrs across his Anglo-Saxon Kingdom. The general idea was that all people would be within 24 hours walk from a buhr, a fortified town which would be appropriately equipped to defend itself against Viking raids. As well as being a very intelligent idea that gave Alfred's people better protection that previously. Alfred also financially assisted himself with this idea, by building permanently defended settlements it attracted trade and a small level of urbanisation. As a result of this it simplified the process of taxation, thus allowing Alfred to increase spending and fund his reforms. Additionally the building of the buhrs was a very large operation, it's estimated that erecting the 9000 feet of defensive banks at the buhr in Wallingford would have taken approximately 120,000 man hours. Once again organisational skill would have been key, and Alfred demonstrated this with the quick construction of the buhrs so as to protect his people as rapidly as possible. Arguable his most noteworthy social change was in law. Alfred compiled the 'Doom Book' from three prior Saxon codes, including the Mosaic Codes and Celtic Law. There are two reasons as to why this was such an important occurrence. ...read more.


Alfred also commissioned the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' which is of crucial importance. Historically, it provides us with virtually all information post-Romans and pre-Normans bar Bede's 'Ecclesiastical History of the English People (as translated by Alfred [page II paragraph V]). The chronicle also helped in the formation of an English identity, with the events occurring in relation to the kingdom being recorded in an innovative manner. Alfred certainly gave much to society while taking little, the re-organisation of the army and navy as well as the formation of buhrs illustrates Alfred's ability to manage large projects so as to protect his people. Furthermore his social reforms formed a solid groundwork for the building of an English society, culture and nation. His schools produced highly educated individuals capable of organising the country, translations developed pride, and his chronicle recorded it all for future generations to learn from and observe. Alfred's idea of fairness and justice in the legal system regardless of wealth or power is one that still survives today (in theory) and his intelligence in the devising of the Danelaw was successful in dissuading potential invaders from the continent until many years after his death. Although the single achievements of Alfred may not suffice to call him 'great', a combination of the military and social effects upon his kingdom leading to it's security and rapid cultural development surely results in Alfred 'the Great', being deservedly considered 'Great'. 1 J.H. Kurtz: Church History, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1892 2 Garmonsway 74 3 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 4 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 5 Leviticus 19:15 ?? ?? ?? ?? I ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Other Historical Periods section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Other Historical Periods essays

  1. What was the impact of the Norman Conquest

    This, together with other criteria like the restructuring of dioceses, created a better organisation and increased the status of the church. These changes secured William's divine control by bolstering his royal authority, through the spread of his influence and a supporting partnership with the church.

  2. Strategy in Cortes' conquest of Mexico

    Montezuma did not resist Cort�s. Indeed, he ordered his people to give the Spaniards gold and he remained on good terms with Cort�s, whom he seemed to like. Hassig suggests the possibility of some noble objectives behind Montezuma's acquiescence - that maybe Montezuma "was biding his time, trying to find

  1. The First English Civil War

    Two days later, the Scottish general, Alexander Leslie, Lord Leven, joined the Fairfaxes and prepared to invest that city. Plans of campaign for 1644 The original plan of the Parliamentary "Committee of Both Kingdoms", which directed the military and civil policy of the allies after the fashion of a modern

  2. William's Victory

    was organising is coronation very soon after the death of Edward the Confessor. At this time, there was no certain rule as to who would take the throne after the death of the existing King. Harold's coronation was suspect as there was usually a period of time between the death

  1. Consider David Starkey(TM)s and Francis Pryor(TM)s respective versions of the nature and extent of ...

    the political scene and playing an active part in politics within the rapidly declining towns. The last theory is simply cultural exchange. Under this theory, there was little migration; but rather the Romano British with a limited cultural exposure left after the departure of the Romans in 410 imported different

  2. Assess the view that Philip II as king of Spain was Absolute in Theory ...

    For example, although the Council of state, the council of war and Finance were all centralised under Philip, his Secretary of state, Perez, was the main conductor of it all. This is also backed up by a statement said by Philip in parkers interpretation; "I don't know if people think I'm made of Iron or stone.

  1. The mystery of Stonehenge- theories about its construction and usage.

    the stone rings situated across the countryside, ever used them for ritual purposes- they are known to have conducted their own ritual constructions. Other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century visitors to the stone rings suggested that these monuments were constructed by the Romans, but this idea is even more lacking in historical

  2. Examine the impact of the Great Famine on Irelands society, economy and politics

    The Famine had an impact on Irish Catholic religious practice, leading a shift towards a more formal and rigorous Catholicism with higher attendances at mass during the post-Famine period and with an enhancement of the social and political authority of the priesthood.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work