Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great - Eric Gordon HST-231 Due: 9/28/11 Alfred...

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Eric Gordon HST-231 Due: 9/28/11 Alfred the Great: England United After the fall of the Mercian Kings following the death of Offa in 796, the uniting force once responsible for keeping Wessex and Northumbria united dissolved into a competition for the Mercian throne. In this brief period of chaos Viking raids from Scandinavia began to push inward on the England. Lacking a strong unified leader, the Anglo-Saxon dominated England was threatened by these violent newcomers. It was at this time that a young king by the name of Alfred came to the throne of Wessex. Through military excellence and legislative innovation he quickly demonstrated his capability as a ruler over not only Wessex, but all of the Anglo-Saxon state. Alfred is given credit for unifying England and while this statement is accurate Alfred himself never had a goal of unification, his actions as king simply led to unification as a side effect. When Alfred rose to the throne in 871 Wessex was the only major Anglo-Saxon territory not affected by the arrival of Vikings and Danish settlers. At that point, the Danes had already been in England for the better part of a century. The Anglo Saxon chronicle reported the presence of Viking ships as far back as 787. The raids reached East Anglia and Kent by 838 and by 867 Northumbria had fallen under Viking control. By 871 almost all of northern England was experiencing Viking raids. 1 At this point they turned their focus south toward Wessex. When Alfred came to the throne his first order of business had to be the raising and maintenance of a capable army. The new twenty-two year old King came to the throne only after an attack by the Danish army under Guthrum on Reading, the capital of Wessex, had killed the previous King Ethelred, Alfred’s older brother. 2 For the remainder of the year the Danes continued their 1 Will Durant, The Age of Faith , (Simon and Schuster, 1950), p. 483. 2 Ibid.
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relentless attack. By the end of 871 there had been nine major battles in Wessex and countless other skirmishes attended by Alfred and his thegns. Alfred had little choice but to pay the Vikings for a truce. The attackers retreated to London and left Wessex alone for five years. 3
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Alfred the Great - Eric Gordon HST-231 Due: 9/28/11 Alfred...

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