chapter  2
30 Pages

Crafting a Textual Kingdom in Wessex

The West Saxon kings were active in consolidating their power by giving gifts and drawing on the examples of the Carolingians, but Alfred the Great and his grandson Æthelstan stand out for their use of specifically textual methods of accruing and maintaining power. Whereas it was a Northumbrian monastery that excelled in textual production in the late seventh and early eighth centuries, the textual program initiated by Alfred was securely based in Wessex and Mercia. By the late ninth century, the West Saxon kingdom showed far more stability than the other kingdoms in England, or even many in Europe. Alfred is justly famous for the texts produced during his reign, but establishing his personal involvement in this output is difficult, whereas the participation of the scholars gathered at his court, including Asser, Plegmund, Wærferth, and John the Old Saxon, must have been crucial.