100 Years Carnegie

Men of Carnegie

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Alfred the Great

King Alfred the Great, or the King of Wessex, was ruler of the West Saxons in what is now England. Alfred and his brother defended their nation against the Danes, defeating them in a major battle at the Battle of Ashdown in Berkshire. After Alfred’s brother died in 871, he became the successor to the throne. He was famous as a great warrior and a champion of social causes. His main accomplishments include championing education and starting schools in an age of little education. Alfred is considered the first King of England.

By 886, Alfred had successfully freed London from Danish occupation. He also sponsored the baptism of the Danish king, Guthrum, and negotiated a treaty with the Danes and the East Anglians. England was then divided into an eastern section declared to be Danish territory. This territory was known as the ‘Danelaw’ where English and Danes were treated equally under the law. Alfred's skillful military leadership and strengthening of both land and naval power ensured that the Danes could make no further advances into England.

Alfred was also effective as a diplomat, forming good relationships with other kingdoms, notably Wales. Welsh rulers sought his support and provided troops for his army in 896.

After studying famous principles of law in the Book of Exodus as well as the codes of Aethelbert of Kent, Ine of Wessex, and Offa of Mercia, Alfred created his own code of law. He avoided unnecessary changes to local customs, but also limited the practice of blood feud and imposed heavy penalties for break of oath or pledge. A distinguishing characteristic of Alfred’s rule was his support of education. He believed the Viking raids were divine punishment for peoples’ sins, which he attributed to a lack of learning. He offered patronage to scholars from Wales and he himself learned Latin, eventually translating books into English, in the hopes of ridding his country of the raids.

Alfred is still held to be one of the greatest of the medieval kings.

"BBC - History - King Alfred (849-899)," available from
Internet; accessed 1 December 2004.

Statue of King Alfred in his birth town Map of Alfred's Kingdom



  1. Online text of the Life of King Alfred by Asser from UC Berkeley

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