Alfred The Great by David Horspool

The quote on the front of the book says “If you only have time to read one book on the great man, you should make it this one”.  I wouldn’t entirely agree with that.  David Horspool’s book is largely a critical review of the myths and legends about King Alfred.  It doesn’t give a chronological narrative of Alfred’s life; there’s none of the the colour and myths and grandeur with which he often appears – but it is none the worse for it.

Book CoverThe real historical evidence and the growth of the legend are covered, and with some wit.  There’s a memorable phrase where Horspool describes the Victorian ideal of Alfred as a “Anglo Saxon head boy king”.  There is great detail on contemporary sources like Bishop Asser; on Matthew Parker, the Tudor archbishop who used the myth to boost the newly independent Church of England; and on later romantic portrayals in painting and theatre, all the way up to Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom and the 1969 epic film starring David Hemmings, Michael York and Ian McKellan.

Continue reading Alfred The Great by David Horspool

Post 7: History of England Podcast

History of England Podcast

Another podcast summary here – this time the History of England, as found at http://historyofengland.typepad.com/. As the title suggests, this is very much from the “History of X” school of podcasts that have sprang up in the aftermath of History of Rome. In this podcast series, David Crowther covers the history of England from Anglo Saxon times onward using his Ladybird book of English monarchs. The end goal is to reach the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901, but at the time of writing he is 124 podcasts in and currently somewhere in the reign of Richard II so there’s still plenty more to go.

Continue reading Post 7: History of England Podcast