Sunday, 13 April 2008

BIRTH OF NATION

NOTE: For other posts in this series, click HISTORY OF BRITAIN on posts/pages (right)

With an English hierarchy united theologically, attention was placed on a similar uniting of the various kingdoms of England. This was to prove troublesome with each kingdom vying for overlordship.
However, by 829, Egbert of Wessex had managed to subjugate the southern kingdoms into a single political unity. In the north of England, however, there was a problem.
Vikings had invaded, beginning with the sacking of the monastery of Lindisfarne in 793.

ALFRED AND DANELAW

Extending their influence throughout northern and eastern England almost as far as London, England became split between the Danish Danelaw to the north, and Anglo-Saxon Wessex in the south.
Things were to begin to change in 871, when Alfred the Great became king of Wessex. Inflicting the first of many reversals on the Danes at the battle of Edington in Wiltshire in 878, Alfred established the first English standing army and created a network of fortified centres to withstand Danish attack.
However, this particular measure was not enough to guarantee victory over the Danes.
Hence, Alfred also manipulated the religio-political nature of the future unified England.

DEFINING ENGLISH

He personally translated Latin works into English, thrusting forward a great revival of religion and learning in a specifically English form, manipulating it as a great quest for knowledge in order to win God's support for victory over the pagans.
What Alfred achieved was a great political coup, grabbing what was needed from the cauldron of outside influences, and allying a distinct nationalism with a greater cause - that of God - which in one form or another was to pull people together throughout the rest of history, sometimes for the good and often for the bad.
And it worked, for Alfred’s successors went on to subjugate the Danelaw, Christianising it as well as conquering it, leading to a unified England.

© Anthony North, April 2008

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