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markk

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The Industrialisation of Soviet Russia, Volume 1: The Socialist Offensive: The Collectivisation of Soviet Agriculture, 1929-1930
Robert William Davies
Progress: 147/512 pages
The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914
Richard J. Evans
Progress: 219/928 pages
Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859-1888
John C. G. Röhl
Progress: 229/1016 pages

A useful but limited narrative

Alfred the Great: The King and His England - Eleanor Shipley Duckett

Eleanor Shipley Duckett’s biography is a useful introduction to Alfred the Great, the Wessex monarch who effectively created the kingdom of England.  She begins with a description of the politics of eighth-century England, a world of maneuvering between regional kingdoms and invading Viking armies.  It was in this dangerous and fluid environment that a young Alfred came of age, watching his father and two elder brothers deal with the threats Wessex faced before gaining the throne at the age of 22.  From here her focus is on his struggles against the Danes, though other chapters also address his kingdom, his education, and his years after his many martial triumphs.

 

While enlightening, the book suffers from an excessive focus on narrative.  As readable as Duckett’s prose is, Her focus on recounting the chronological development of events too frequently comes at the cost of a clear understanding of Alfred’s character and the significance of the developments of his life.  Readers wanting to familiarize themselves with the basic details of Alfred’s life will find this a useful and enjoyable book, but those seeking a more comprehensive analysis of the great Anglo-Saxon king would be better served by Richard Abels’s more recent Alfred the Great.