The British History Podcast
Summary: iTunes is restricting our list to 300 episodes for some reason. To access all episodes, click subscribe. The BHP is a chronological retelling of the history of Britain with a particular focus upon the lives of the people. You won't find a dry recounting of dates and battles here, but instead you'll learn about who these people were and how their desires, fears, and flaws shaped the histories of England, Scotland, and Wales. Support the Show
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“I can not find anything better in man, than that he know, and nothing worse than that he be ignorant.” That’s a quote from Alfred, and I think it’s my favorite quote. The nice thing about Alfred is that he’s a man for all seasons. There’s something in his reign for everyone. He’s got an excellent comeback story. He’s goes through a sort of Che Guevara phase. He’s got a period where he’s riding around with a cavalry strike force like King Arthur. He’s got a pious side. A scholarly side. A horny side. He has a keen mind for politics, for manipulation, and for tactics. Whatever your need… there’s an Alfred for that. Support the Show
One of the interesting things about piecing together the life of Alfred is that we find little windows into who he was in the strangest of places. Most kings of this era didn’t write much down for us to read… but Alfred did. In fact, he translated entire books (which we’re going to talk about today) and he didn’t just translate the books, he included his own thoughts on them as well. For example, in his translation of Pastoral Care by Pope Gregory the Great. Alfred tells us… “[T]here were happy times then throughout England and… the kings, who had authority over this people, obeyed God and his messengers; and how they not only maintained their peace, morality and authority at home but also extended their territory outside; and how they succeeded both in wisdom and in warfare.” Support the Show
This episode has been difficult to write. In fact, the last several have been difficult, and it all comes down to issues of time. Not space time flexing due to gravitational pull, and issues of whether a minute for Alfred in Wessex was the same as a minute for someone climbing the alps. Just good old fashioned questions of timing. What goes first? When does it happen? What happens next and when? The problem is that history, at its root, is a story, and a story generally needs a sequence of events. I mean, sure, some storytellers like William S Burroughs have completely cast off the idea of a sequence to great effect. But in general, to tell a story that people can understand, A needs to be followed by B which needs to be followed by C. Support the Show
While all of the political wrangling was occurring in Tamworth, Guthrum-AEthelstan was relocating to East Anglia, and he was bringing serious changes with him. Culture isn’t something that you can easily uproot in a person – it goes deep. Sure, Guthrum had spent 12 days feasting like and Anglo Saxon, and even gave that one awkward strip tease to demonstrate that he was committed to embracing the Anglo Saxon ways and their god. And honestly, I get the sense that he genuinely was trying to acclimate to his new culture. For example, shortly after moving into East Anglia we see him issuing coins under his baptismal name: AEthelstan. So not only was he accepting his new Christian name, but he was minting coins… which wasn’t something that was generally done by Danish Kings. In fact, Guthrum was the first of the Scandinavian Kings of Britain to mint his own coins, so I do get the sense he was trying. But he had a lifetime of being Scandinavian and a 12 day crash course wasn’t going to completely erase all of that. And Culture is more than how you pray and what you wear. It’s how you work, how you entertain yourself, how you organize your home, your government – culture is basically how we do things, all things. Culture is all encompassing. Support the Show
Dr. Hills discussed material culture, ethnicity, Anglo Saxon migration, and more in this fascinating interview. You can learn more about what Dr. Hills at her departmental website here. Support the Show
Follow Rory on Twitter @Rory_Naismith and make sure to follow him at his Academic page at Kings College London as well as on Academia.edu. This episode covers how the economy transitioned from food rent to coinage, how currency was a reflection of the soul, why King Offa had such funky hair, and much more. Support the Show
It's that time again!
For Alfred, everything had changed at Chippenham. It was at Chippenham where he had lost his crown and his kingdom… it’s also possible that he was the victim of a coup, considering how Guthrum’s conquest had gone virtually unchallenged. Chippenham was a place of great shame for the House of Wessex. That is, until now. Now Chippenham was the site of his reinstatement. It had taken a mere matter of months and here Alfred was in May with Guthrum locked behind the walls of the Vill, and he had no choice but to surrender. Here, at Chippenham, Alfred was finally ascendant. Support the Show
Thank you for always being there for me, Nanna. <3 Support the Show
Four months is a long time. It might not seem it. And in many ways, four months can pass in the blink of an eye. But four months is around 120 days. It’s a full season. In four months, the harshness of winter can be replaced by the the bright warmth of spring. Four months is a long time. Especially when you’re living in a swamp. And even moreso when you’re leading a guerilla war. Each day on AEthelney would have been marked with life or death decisions. Missions being sent out. New warriors being recruited. Supplies being… liberated. From their base of operations in Somerset, every day would have brought new challenges. Support the Show
In spite of everything standing against them, Alfred and AEthelnoth are bringing the war directly to Guthrum on a daily basis. We know this thanks to Asser and the Chronicle, but both sources neglect to tell us exactly HOW the rebel army was bringing the war to Guthrum. The one time I want more information on historic military tactics, and …nothing. However, while our sources neglect tactics, they do let us know a key point about their tactical situation: Alfred and AEthelnoth’s numbers were few… merely Alfred’s Heorthwerod and whatever forces that AEthelnoth brought with him. Support the Show
The last episode ended with an account by Ethelweard which told us that after the arrival of AEthelnoth, Alfred was attacking Guthrum on a daily basis. Alfred was no longer just trying to survive, he was trying to take his kingdom back. Support the Show
Today, we are going to talk about the early steps of Alfred’s guerrilla war against King Guthrum. We will talk about the elements of this sort of war, the circumstances of the West Saxons under Guthrum’s rule, and the resulting fallout within Wessex. Support the Show
It's that time again!