Aelfred's Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age

by Max Adams

Hardcover, ?



Call number



Head of Zeus


In 865, a great Viking army landed in East Anglia, precipitating a series of wars that would last until the middle of the following century. It was in this time of crisis that the modern kingdoms of Britain were born. In their responses to the Viking threat, these kingdoms forged their identities as hybrid cultures: vibrant and entrepreneurial peoples adapting to instability and opportunity.Traditionally, Alfred the Great is cast as the central player in the story of Viking Age Britain. But Max Adams, while stressing the genius of Alfred as war leader, law-giver, and forger of the English nation, has a more nuanced narrative approach to this conventional version of history. The Britain encountered by the Scandinavians of the ninth and tenth centuries was one of regional diversity and self-conscious cultural identities, depicted in glorious narrative fashion in The Viking Wars.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Shrike58
While I'm going with the current consensus and giving this book a rating of 4 stars, I might give it a rating of 3.75 if one could go more granular. Part of this is expectations, in that while Adams does spend much time on conflict and friction between Vikings and the inhabitants of the British Isles, the original title of "Aelfred's Britain" gives one a better sense of what this book is about. This is as Adams' main goal is to put Aelfred into his context as being the most important ruler in an ever shifting constellation of very localized social entities, rather than being an anachronistic ruler of a unified kingdom. Also, while Adams does wear his learning quite lightly, this probably isn't the first book one should pick up on the topic. It's like a mosaic of what the current state of play suggests we can say about the period in question; and one still winds up with the feeling that the work is less than the sum of the parts.… (more)
LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is a very well researched and written account of the period of Viking influence on the whole of the British Isles and Ireland, from the infamous initial attack on the Holy Island, Lindisfarne, off the Northumbrian coast on 8 June 1793 (I was on the island on the day of the anniversary this year), covering a period of some 160 years until the last Viking king of York was defeated by the English king Edred in 954 and England became, more or less, a united country (the Viking influence continued later on and of course Danish Canute and his sons ruled England for some 26 years in the following century). There is a lot of discussion of literary and archaeological evidence and the reader gets a strong sense of the patchwork of small kingdoms, alliances and struggles across the country, and how far the country was from being a united England, even after the efforts of Kings Alfred, Edward and Athelstan to unite the main kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, and attempt to exert influence over East Anglia and Northumbria. Viking influence on what would later become France is also covered to some extent, as it illustrates how the Vikings divided their attempts and focused on one country to allow the other country to recover somewhat before it was fit to be raided again for riches and resources. This book is richly illustrated and has genealogical tables and many footnotes. It is a worthy and deep look at this crucial period in the history of the British Isles… (more)


Original language


Physical description

512 p.; 6.54 inches


1784080306 / 9781784080303

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