Michael Wood: Alfred the Great and the Vikings (878)


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This week we are travelling back to the ninth century to witness one of the major turning points in English history.

Winston Churchill regularly tops ‘the greatest Briton of all time’ charts, but his own vote for this accolade apparently went to the man we are going to discuss today.

Alfred 'the Great' is the only English monarch to enjoy such an admiring epithet. Æthelred, the later monarch, is remembered as ‘the Unready’ (although this meant poorly advised rather than unprepared), William I is either ‘the conqueror’ or ‘the bastard’ depending on your point of view – no other monarch’s reputation has survived with a rosy glow.

Our time travel today in the company of the world-renowned historian Michael Wood reveals exactly why Alfred is so well thought of. He takes us back to 878, a pivotal year in our history when, against all the odds, the Viking invaders were defeated, pushed out of Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex and the geopolitics were set for the following centuries.

Michael Wood’s In Search of the Dark Ages: a History of Anglo-Saxon England 40th anniversary edition, is newly published by BBC Books.

As ever, for more about this episode, head over to our website: www.tttpodcast.com

Show notes

Scene One: March 23rd Easter at Athelney, after Alfred’s desperate guerrilla war in the Somerset marshes.

Scene Two: 9th May, the Battle of Edington, Alfred defeats the Viking forces against all odds.

Scene Three: 26th June Treaty at Wedmore which changed the course of the Viking wars and resulted in their leader, Guthrum converting to Christianity with Alfred as his godfather.

Memento: Alfred’s little commonplace book that he carried around with him, and perhaps had with him in the marshes.


Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Michael Wood

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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