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The Vita Alcuini, Asser and scholarly service at the court of Alfred the Great

Thomas, Rebecca 2019. The Vita Alcuini, Asser and scholarly service at the court of Alfred the Great. English Historical Review 134 , pp. 1-24. 10.1093/ehr/cez005

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Asser’s Life of King Alfred, a biography of Alfred the Great composed by a Welsh monk from St David’s in 893, is a key source for understanding connections between ninth-century Britain and the Continent. Asser’s biography draws on a variety of continental sources, the most famous and widely discussed being Einhard’s Vita Karoli. This article examines parallels between Asser’s Life of King Alfred and another, more obscure, continental source, the anonymous ninth-century Vita Alcuini, a text which has received little scholarly attention. Unlike many of his Carolingian counterparts, Asser’s biography features himself as a major character, providing an account of his journey to Alfred’s service. It has been noted by various scholars that this autobiographical section of the Life bears great similarity to the Vita Alcuini’s description of Alcuin entering the service of Charlemagne. This article provides a thorough examination of the two texts, assessing the possibility of a connection, and investigating the implications for our understanding of Asser and his agenda. As there is no manuscript evidence that the Vita Alcuini ever made it to Britain, this study has the potential to transform our understanding of its transmission and readership in the early Middle Ages, illuminating a further connection Britain England and the continent in the ninth century.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Welsh
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0013-8266
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2022 15:45

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