Alfred the Great, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Alfred is the only English king ever to be called 'Great'.

It was not a title given by political supporters, not the sycophantic gift of an official biographer, nor a self-styled title.

It was the gift of history. Justin Pollard's enthralling, authoritative account befits Alfred - a soldier, a scholar and statesman like no other in English history.

His rule spanned troubled times. His shores were under constant threat from Viking marauders and he faced turmoil at home.

Soon after he began his rule a conspiracy erupted and he was hounded out of his kingdom into solitary exile in forests and fens.

But his ambition was not felled by adversity. Alone in this damp, dangerous, half-world of bogs and quicksand Alfred looked within and found the motivation to create a new type of nation.

Drawing on the latest historical, textual and archaeological research Justin Pollard radically reassesses the key moments in Alfred's life.

He offers a new interpretation of what caused this most remarkable king to begin the formation of England and how it coloured the subsequent history of the Western World down to the present day.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384 pages, 16 pp b/w plus map
  • Publisher: John Murray General Publishing Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: royalty
  • ISBN: 9780719566660



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Pollard does an excellent job bringing a medieval figure to life, which is not an easy task. With very few contemporary sources and even fewer solidly reliable ones, Alfred's character is easily obscured by the ages that have passed since his reign. This book does a fine job of making Alfred seem more human and less like a myth or legend. A great pick for the casual historian.

Review by

With my degree being mostly in medieval literature, and that of the Saxon period, it's not surprising that I'm a little more well-informed than the author of this book expects you to be, on the subject of Alfred. For example, I didn't know of him only because of the myth of the burning cakes: I actually knew the story of his mother giving him his first book, and the fact that he then later prioritised learning and knowledge.<br/><br/>Still, despite that assumption, it's a good book: it provides a clear context for Alfred's rule, following all the relevant threads of other ruling families, and commenting on what certainly seem to be key moments. It's a very readable book, not aimed at scholars but at readers of "popular history", so there aren't constant footnotes, etc, but the research certainly seems to have been done well.

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