Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book Review: "The White Horse King" by Benjamin Merkle

"The White Horse King - The Life of Alfred The Great" is an excellent biography of the Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex and Mercia. Alfred is the only English king be called "The Great" and the title is well earned.

Alfred was a wise man who took education and learning quite seriously. He became king during a tumultuous time for his country and led his people in success and excellence. His ascent to the throne coincided with terrible war against Danish Viking invaders bent on conquest and pillage. Although unable to completely drive the Danes from the British Isles, his military reforms set the stage so that his grandson, King Aethelstan, would be finally able to do so.

Alfred was a bit of a Renaissance man, valuing education not only for himself, but also for his people. His efforts to encourage literacy was quite progressive for 9th century Europe. He was also responsible for a renewed interest in literature, leadership development and Christian studies. He commissioned the translation of many great works of the time from Latin into the Anglo-Saxon tongue and was even personally responsible for translating part of the Bible's Book of Psalms into his native language; this being hundreds of years before The Protestant Reformers or King James would create their translations.

But it was Alfred's military campaigns against the Danes which really set him apart. The book tells the story of a man who studied his enemies and looked for weaknesses to exploit. He learned from his mistakes and sought not to repeat them. He also was not afraid to look at his own forces to look for ways to improve how they functioned. His ability to gather people around him and inspire them to loyalty and greatness makes him an example excellence in leadership.

If you have an interest in history, English history in particular, then this book is for you. Benjamin Merkle does an excellent job of bringing to life one of the great kings of history. He makes the story interesting and compelling while keeping it factual and not a piece of "hero worship."

Disclaimer: I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program. Although Thomas Nelson Publishing provided the book at no cost to me, this review is my honest opinion of the work

1 comment:

  1. There were a few really great Queens during that period too!