How will these resources help you?

Teachers often focus on 1066 rather than the earlier Anglo-Saxon era when looking at the making of England/Britain. Primary sources about Alfred’s era can be difficult to find. However, Alfred introduced reforms that form the basis of how the UK operates today, including innovations in law, defence and coinage. Studying this era also allows for a better understanding of migration, and of how England has been tied to Europe since its beginnings. It also helps students to understand the mix that makes up the ethnic groups in the UK and how this mix has been developing for over 1000 years.

How Alfred the Great influenced England

Alfred the Great: The Man Who made England

by Justin Pollard, published by John Murray Press (Hachette), (2006), 9780719566660

This illustrated book explores the life and times of Alfred and assesses his importance in the creation of England. Students could look at the ways in which Alfred can be seen to have created what we now think of as Englishness/Britishness, linking into the study of British values, which is now compulsory in the National Curriculum. Students could create a poster looking at what they think are British values and how Alfred does or doesn’t represent these values. Themes like inclusiveness, following the rule of law and a love of learning could be a good starting place for discussions and projects. 

The Life of Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great

published by The School Run, (2011)

This resource gives a basic introduction to Alfred. Although designed for KS2, it offers a useful starting point to get older students interested in researching this topic. It outlines why Alfred has the title of ‘Great’ and shows some of the innovations attributed to him that inform our understanding of the development of England/Britain. Students could create a checklist of what makes a good ruler. You could supplement this resource with the History Press article in Further Materials on why Alfred is referred to as ‘the Great’.

Alfred vs the Vikings

The Viking Wars of Alfred the Great

by Paul Hill, edited by Christopher Summerville, published by Pen & Sword Military, (2008), 9781844157587

This looks in depth at the battles between Alfred and the Vikings, especially the Battle of Edington, and how they changed the course of history. This resource describes what we know about Edington but, more importantly, puts it in context and helps students to understand its importance in shaping the future of England and the UK. They could describe how and why this event is significant, compare it with other significant events, such as the Battle of Hastings, and then create a justifiable answer to the question: What was the most significant event in Anglo-Saxon England? It could also be a great opportunity to look at the topics of leadership and resilience, which can be found all over the curriculum. 

Primary sources linked to Alfred the Great

Anglo-Saxon Chronicles: Alfred the Great

published by East India Publishing Company, 9781774260531

This is a set of primary sources based on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles that gives a first-hand account of the life and times of Alfred the Great. It is a chronological list of the events with explanations and notes from the author/translator. It is possible that it was the evidence from this source that gave rise to later generations giving him the title of Alfred the Great. Students could look for bias throughout the chronicles and assess to what extent we can trust this resource with regard to Alfred. Basic information about the chronicles, including criticism that will help students to critique them as a source, can be found online. See The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles in Further Materials as an example.

Audiovisual clip

King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons - Alfred’s Kingdom

published by BBC, (2013)

A recounting of Alfred's greatest innovations and how they laid the foundations of today's Britain.

Further Materials

Alfred the Great: King of the Anglo-Saxons, published by The History Press, (2021) Read this article
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles: Facts and Information, published by Primary Facts Access this resource
Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: A Captivating Guide to the History of Wessex and Mercia, published by Captivating History, (2020), 9781647487843 Find this book
Rulers and Ruling Families in Early Medieval Europe: Alfred, Charles the Bald and Others by Janet L. Nelson, published by Routledge, (2021, first published in 1999), 9780367197742 Find this book
King Alfred the Great by Andrew Staden, independently published, (2019), 9781520561226 Find this book
Christopher Terry is a former Head Teacher and former academic lead for Teaching and Learning in various British and International Schools, and he has been a teacher of History for 15 years. He works as an examiner and also delivers ITT History Teacher Training in the North West of England and Internationally. He also has been a specialist advisor to OFQUAL for History and has been recognised by the Historical Association as an outstanding practitioner. 

Text © Christopher Terry, 2021.