Why Alfred Burned the Cakes

Why Alfred Burned the Cakes : 1100 Years of Myth and History

3.26 (34 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback
By (author) 

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A little over a century ago, the only English king to be called 'the Great' could attract crowds of thousands to commemorate him. Now, even the most famous (and famously false) story about him, the burning of the cakes, is probably just a memory of 1066 and All That. This book shows how the Alfred of myth and the Alfred of history have become inextricably linked. For a long time, the legend of the burnt cakes was one of dozens of stories that were associated with the King and his time, from disguising himself as a minstrel to introducing the jury system. Alfred's historical achievements - saving his kingdom from invasion, attempting both to expand and educate his realm - and the way his story was told from the beginning, combined to make him the founding mythic figure of England. In stripping away the myths, historians have left an Alfred whose place in the popular imagination has all but vanished. This book attempts to recover a popular Alfred, understanding how he came to be 'Great', and how much myth had to do with that. A launch title in the new "Profiles in History" series, edited by Mary Beard. This series explores classic moments of world history- those 'ring-a-bell' events that we always know less about than we think!show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 142 x 200 x 26mm | 381.02g
  • Profile Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 1861977867
  • 9781861977861
  • 1,913,309

Review quote

FT Magazine - 'David Horspool's Why Alfred Burned the Cakes does not seek to discredit the cult of Alfred as unhistorical but instead to look at why the myths surrounding him came into being.' Daily Telegraph - 'If you have time to read just one book about the great man, you should make it this one.' Observer - 'explodes some of the myths surrounding his legacy, while retaining an interest in the genesis of the stories about him that have modern currency...' Guardian - 'Horspool's little book [is] crucial reading for anyone who is interested in how history gets put together.' Times - 'Myths...are scraped off like barnacles as the West Saxon hero is pulled from the morass of pious public schoolboy attitudes and sentimental Victorian values by a cheerfully revisionist historian.' Sunday Telegraph - 'This entertaining, pithy and thought-provoking book both embodies and explains the enduring resonance of Alfred's story.'show more

About David Horspool

David Horspool is the history editor of The Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London. He is now writing a book on English rebels.show more

Rating details

34 ratings
3.26 out of 5 stars
5 9% (3)
4 29% (10)
3 44% (15)
2 15% (5)
1 3% (1)
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