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Was Alfred The Great A Good Monarch?

1421 words - 6 pages

Aran Kanagaratnam II/ISS DAP
Alfred the GreatVery few monarchs have been as successful as Alfred, proved by his title 'the Great'. However this ninth century monarch of the Western Saxons achieved much in his reign, demonstrating military skill and innovation, governance that inspired his followers, a revision of the law, but most importantly the promotion of scholarship and education. It is because of these vital reforms, at a period where Britain was under constant attack from the Vikings, who were extremely fearsome warriors, that so many important people and historians have lauded him with praise. Winston Churchill once described him as 'the greatest Englishman who ever lived'.The main reason why Alfred felt a need to improve education during his reign was because the monasteries and churches, (which were the centres of learning and education) were under unceasing attack from the Vikings and thus many books and other artefacts had been raided. Alfred, being a devout Christian, believed that the Viking raids were a punishment from God for people's sins, specifically the decline in learning. He offered patronage to scholars across Britain and Wales and he himself learnt Latin, translating works such as Boethius' The Consolations of Philosophy into Anglo-Saxon poetry over a period of over twenty years from 871 A.D till 899 A.D. This work furthered the Anglo-Saxon language and for this alone Alfred should be commended; as only monks and a few others knew Latin and thus advanced the Anglo-Saxon language. By doing this he set an example to his people: that even in these Dark times when Wessex was struggling to keep the Vikings out, he still valued a society that valued learning and education. According to Asser (the Welsh monk who was commissioned by Alfred to write his biography in 893) Alfred, 'believed that learning makes life more enjoyable...the worst thing is ignorance'. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which recorded much of early English history, was compiled under Alfred's instigation. Alfred also promoted literature by inviting scholars such as Grimbald in 885 to come to his court. Alfred's cultivation of learning transformed England forever. Though he did not attain his dream of every English boy receiving an education, his emphasis on learning triggered a renaissance of learning in Britain. The effect of Alfred's emphasis on literature and learning is that a millennium later, Britain has a diverse culture, rich in literature from throughout the ages. Thus Alfred deserves the title 'the Great' because of his long-term contribution to English education.Though Alfred created few new laws during his reign, he extensively revised the legal system, instilling many principles that are the foundation of legal systems around the world today. His first course of action was to revise the Doombook and rid the volume of useless laws to create a system upon which everyone agreed. He established a 'folk-moot' (like a council meeting) where disputes and...

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