Medieval Matters: Why the Anglo-Saxons Matter: King Alfred and the Making of England
- EVT 506
- Apr 26
- 7:30 pm
No Registration Required
Medieval Matters is a series of public lectures co-sponsored by Stanford Continuing Studies, the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Office for Religious Life, and the community group The Sarum Seminar. It explores the relevance of medieval history and culture to understanding the modern world.
Why the Anglo-Saxons Matter: King Alfred and the Making of England
In this lecture illustrated with slides and film clips, Michael Wood looks at one of the most exciting and formative periods in British history, the Viking Age, when three generations of the family of Alfred the Great created the early English state. At this time institutions were created that would shape British history through modern times; 10th-century assembly politics are now seen as the roots of the English Parliament, and Old English law books are the foundation of English law. The period also matters for English literature: Alfred’s vernacular translations begin a continuity of English prose down to Chaucer, and the great Old English poetic collections were gathered together in the 10th century. Professor Wood will put these developments in the context of court culture, and royal and noble patronage, with special emphasis on the rich haul of manuscripts associated with Alfred’s grandson Athelstan, the first king of England. A key argument is that the creation of the 10th-century Anglo-Saxon empire with its state culture has to be understood as the English embrace of the Carolingian Renaissance. Slides will include images of rarely seen manuscripts, and clips will include a sequence shot in the Vatican library with a manuscript of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, which may be the one used by Alfred and his court scholar, the Welsh Bishop Asser.
Michael Wood, Professor of Public History, University of Manchester; Filmmaker Michael Wood is known to US viewers for his many documentary films on PBS, among them Art of the Western World, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, and The Story of India, which The Wall Street Journal described as “still the gold standard” of documentary history making. A specialist in Anglo-Saxon history, he has written widely on the age of King Athelstan on which he has a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Wood recently received the British Academy President’s Medal for services to the humanities and social sciences.
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