Alfred the Great is a key figure in the early history of England, helping to prevent a Viking conquest of the last Anglo-Saxon kingdom to survive and preserving the dynasty that led the unification of the country. This was all despite a constant stream of Viking attacks and a disastrous collapse of his power that famously saw Alfred forced to hide out on the Isle of Athelney.
The articles on the main theme cover a good cross-section of Alfred's career. We start with his part in the victory at Ashdown, fought before he came to the throne. There is a look at the army he inherited and used in his most important victories, the key victory at Edington which restored the situation after his lowest ebb and the reforms that he brought in to make sure that such a disaster didn't happen again. There is also a look at the strategy of the Viking army, viewing the war from the other side, and an examination of Asser's Life of Alfred, our most important source for his reign and the first biography of an Anglo-Saxon ruler.
Away from the main theme there is the second part of a two-part series on a fourteenth century Hungarian invasion of Italy, part of a power struggle in the Kingdom of Naples. This is a conflict I was entirely unfamiliar with, and also serves as a reminder of the real power of the Pope in Italy in this period. There is a look at the development of the halberd, its use in battle, and the reasons for its decline. Most interesting is a look at the birth of the noble infantry officer in the period when infantry became the main force on the battlefield and various rulers put a great deal of effort into convincing the nobility to join the infantry. There is a focus on the Imperial Landsknechts, a key force in the process, along with the Spanish tercios, a dominant force on the European battlefield for a time.
The 300-year nightmare - Historical introduction
Asser's Life of Alfred - A medieval English panegyric
The Battle of Ashdown - Victory, battlefield and the language of war
Danegeld, coups, oaths and treachery - Alternative strategies of the Great Army
The wyvern resurgent - Alfred's campaign of 878 and the Battle of Edington
Alfred's military reorganization - How to counter the Viking invasions of England
The halberd - The Swiss weapon of choice
Joanna returns - The Hungarian invasion of Italy Part II
From knight to officer - The birth of a noble infantry
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