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Alfred the Great by Jacob Abbott

Alfred the Great (1849)

by Jacob Abbott

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Title:Alfred the Great
Authors:Jacob Abbott
Info:Werner Company
Collections:Your library
Tags:History, Biography

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History of King Alfred of England by Jacob Abbott (1849)



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This is the most under-researched and off-topic history book I’ve read to date. Would’ve rated it one star but opted for two when considering the author was a nineteenth-century American writing about English history when he doubtless lacked much info that's available on Alfred nowadays.

But why attempt writing a biography of someone if research is so restricted? Even the book’s title is erroneous, as Alfred was not King of England, he was King of Wessex. Alfred laid the foundations of a united England, but it was his grandson Æthelstan who became my country’s first monarch.

Other errors include a reference to the four kingdoms of England during the 800s. The author gets three right but names the fourth as Essex when it was in fact East Anglia.

At one point Alfred is said to have died in 900. At another he’s said to have died in 900 or 901. In truth, Alfred died in 899. Clearly the author was unsure of the date, so why state it as fact one minute, only to say it was either this year or that in the next minute? Anyway, he's got it wrong.

My biggest criticism is the huge amount of time spent detailing times and events that are off-topic. Apart from the first two paragraphs, Chapters 1-3 have nothing to do with Alfred, while Chapters 4 & 5 barely touch on the subject matter either, as this quote from the end of Chapter 5 illustrates:

>But we must end these digressions, which we have indulged thus far in order to give the
reader some distinct conception of the ideas and habits of the times, and proceed, in the next chapter, to relate the events immediately connected with Alfred's accession to the throne. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Jul 21, 2016 |
This book is part of a series of historical treatments produced in the mid nineteenth century by Jacob Abbott, apparently an American author of, largely, children's literature. As a work of literature, it is beautifully written. As a work of history, it reflects the views and attitudes towards historical evidence of its time, and is now of very limited value. Chroniclers' stories of dubious veracity are recounted at length. There are very few dates, and very little serious examination of motive. Pages are given over to the innate superiority of the Anglo Saxon race among all other Caucasians, and of that race over all others; and the innate superiority of Christianity over the Danes' pagan beliefs; Alfred was the crowning apotheosis of the Anglo Saxon Christian race in this telling. His undoubted real greatness as the founder of the English nation in something approaching its modern form is thereby transformed into an almost Christ-like godliness, an approach that would invite automatic scepticism if applied by a modern biographer. The last and longest chapter leaps forward a century to tell the story of Godwin (whom he makes the son of a Warwickshire peasant), Emma and the sons of Canute, on the premise that nothing of interest to the non-specialist reader happened during this time (so much for Athelstan, who consolidated and extended Alfred's nation-building achievements). Despite all this, I enjoyed reading this for its literary merits, and as an example of the historiography of the time, but it is to be taken with a huge pinch of salt as a historical account. 2.5/5 ( )
  john257hopper | Jan 27, 2014 |
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Alfred the Great figures in history as the founder, in some sense, of the British monarchy.
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