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
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!
It was January of 878. The dead of British winter – and Alfred was running. Through fields, past hamlets, keeping out of sight whenever he could. He ran. He headed for the Somerset Levels. This was a coastal plane during the 9th century – a dense network of impassable marshes. It wasn’t ideal, but at least Alfred would be difficult to find there. Much like the Fens had protected East Anglia from numerous over-land invasions, Alfred hoped the nigh impenetrable swamps of Somerset would grant him safety. And so he ran. Support the Show
For generations, the Anglo Saxon dominance in eastern Britain has gone largely unchallenged. In the face of this, the warlike vagabonds that first came to these lands had been transformed into gentry. Power had calcified into the hands of a few, war had become a ritualized way for dynasties to settle arguments over wealth, and Kingdoms grew complacent. And into this arena entered the Northmen… skilled opportunists who saw that the systems that supported these dynasties were outmoded and could be wielded against them. And they were stunningly effective. In barely over a decade, all of the Heptarchy had fallen to the Danish sword. Most recently, Wessex, the last free anglo saxon kingdom, had fallen to Guthrum. All was lost. Or so many thought. Hidden in the marshes of Somerset, Alfred prepared his next move. He had lost his crown, his kingdom, and god knows what was happening with his family but he wasn’t out of the fight yet. He still had a small band of supporters and while it would be difficult, what he had would have to be enough. The kingdom needed to be retaken… and Alfred had a plan. His war would continue and Alfred will become Great in Season Six of the British History Podcast: Wessex. Support the Show
How do you redeem a year like 877? If you’re Alfred, how do you fix something like this? Even if he cast it in the best possible light, the story of 877 would still be the story of how Wessex lost control of two of its major coastal strongholds, was unable to directly counter the military strength of Guthrum, and largely only survived thanks to bad weather. Now, true, that could certainly be cast as divine intervention, and that would definitely bolster some spirits, but even in that circumstance, you’re looking at a year that was so bad that the almighty had to get involved to keep the kingdom safe from total annihilation. And the hits kept coming. As harvest season drew to a close, Alfred would have received word from across the channel that King Charles the Bald of Frankia had died. Charles was never the best king, but his death raised the specter of instability… and don’t forget how powerful the Viking fleets became when they were able to exploit Frankish instability. The prospect of short sighted nobles once again financing these pirates would have been cause for concern to say the least. Support the Show
At some point early in the Viking Age, a group of Northmen came across a natural harbor on the western side of the Irish Sea. Being that they were a seafaring people, having places in foreign lands where they could safely make port was a significant advantage. Orkney was already showing its usefulness, and now they needed another waypoint further south. The life of a northman, even the life of a Vikingr, involved a lot more travelling and trading than it did actual raiding. So having friendly trading spots along their route wasn’t just convenient, it was good business. Support the Show
When we left off, Guthrum had marched into the heart of Wessex without being noticed, lead his forces right past Alfred’s hold in Winchester, and seized the Royal tun of Wareham. In response to this, Alfred raised the Fyrd, marched upon the southern port town, and besieged it. Now all of our surviving sources are silent on how long this siege lasted. Alfred may have tried to end it quickly, but it’s just as likely that he and his army camped on the edge of Wareham for a very long time and that Guthrum’s army was running low on supplies. Looking at the record, our best guess is that the siege lasted until winter and only came to a conclusion in either in the end of 876 or early 877, but this is one of those details we will never know for sure. Support the Show
It's that time again!
It’s the year 876 and historians Dudo and Flodoard tell us that a fleet of Vikings slammed into the Frankish city of Rouen and nearly leveled it to the ground. In response to this attack, King Louis the Stammerer, brother of Judith, launched a campaign to oust them… but he never saw this completed because King Louis fell ill and died not long after. The Kingdom of the Franks was split between Louis’ two sons, Carloman II and Louis III. This death and political restructuring didn’t end the Frankish fight against the Vikings… but that fleet that nearly razed Rouen was htere to stay and they were lead by a man named Hrolfr… though, you probably know him by the name the Franks gave him. Rollo. This single event on the continent would change the course of British History forever. Hrolfr, at this point an obscure viking from an unknown lineage, is the founder of the House of Normandy. The house which will eventually come to rule England. Later records also tell us that Hrolfr even befriended Guthrum at some point. Support the Show