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Athelred the Unready: The Ill-Counselled King Hardcover – 1 Jan 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Continnuum-3PL; First Edition edition (1 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852853824
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852853822
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 279,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"fine-grained analysis" Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

ANN WILLIAMS is a leading historian of Anglo-Saxon England and the author of the English and Norman Conquest (1995). She is Senior Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very quick delivery ,book was as expected. made me a happy buyer
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98a766fc) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98fc3050) out of 5 stars Not unready but other flaws 26 Dec. 2010
By Daniel Putman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ann Williams' Aethelred is a king who was not "unready." As she points out, "unready" is a modern interpretation of an old English term that does not mean that. It just looks like "unready." It comes from "unraed" which means no advice or poorly counselled. It could also mean that he adopted poor counsel. But he was ready for the Vikings. It is what he did about it that was the problem. The issue also does not lie in the fact that he several times "bought them off." This was common to earlier kings not only in England but on the continent, though Aethelred appears to have done it more often and with greater taxation than his predecessors. Bribery to get the Vikings to leave or become friendly mercenaries was better than the devastation they wreaked on the country. This may not pass muster as great courage but there are times when courage has to be tempered by realities of power and balanced against the degree and extent of suffering of one's people. Aethelred's real problems were two-fold. First, he accepted some very poor advice about how to proceed. Every king relies heavily on counsellors and Aethelred put his trust in, if the chroniclers are to be believed, the treacherous Eadric streona along with others whose goals were primarily their own, not the country's. Why he accepted poor counsel is opaque to us. It seems to be related to an irrational personal and political dependence on certain individuals but we will never know for sure. Second, Aethelred was prone to what Williams quotes as "spasmodic acts of violence." This combination of accepting bad advice with impulsiveness was deadly not just for him but for the future of the Anglo-Saxon kingship.

I respectfully disagree with the previous reviewer. I do not believe there is any way that Aethelred could be called a "great" king. Unlike William the Conqueror or Henry I or Henry II, I think a better analogy might be Stephen. They both had flashes of anger and at times courage combined with irrational follow-through and reliance on ministers who were mostly interested in benefiting themselves. I would rate Stephen as worse but Aethelred was no model king. As Williams documents events, Aethelred was in many ways a model of a weak king. In the Middle Ages intelligence, at least military intelligence, and a strength of character which follows through into strength of action was what was needed. While one can argue that Aethelred was overwhelmed by the constant threat of Viking terror, he failed in critical ways, especially later in his life. Williams' book is an enjoyable read and she puts together the narrative of Aethelred's life in a highly readable and coherent fashion. This is a must read book for anyone interested in the critical juncture when the Anglo-Saxon kings lost control of England. Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson notwithstanding, this was the beginning of the end for those who took over England from the Romans.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99be315c) out of 5 stars great history 23 Nov. 2014
By Sean Gallagher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was very pleased with Ms. Williams latest book. She has a solid historians prose without getting that droning boring flavor that some history texts can get. I found out quite a bit of new information about Aethelred that I didn't know already so that was great as well.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98d097d4) out of 5 stars Interesting 15 Feb. 2008
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Aethelred the Unready is portrayed as anything but in this fascinating new history of his reign. He was rarely unready and frequently quick on the march to stop Danish/Viking invasion of the 10th century when he reigned as king over England for 38 years. A reformer and passionate defender of his people he deserves to be up there with other great Kings such as William the Conquerer, King Arthur, Henry II, Edward III and Richard II.

A fascinating individual in this biography, one of the few on this extraordinary man, the story of 10t century England comes alive, describing the people who populated England before the Norman invasion of 1066.

Seth J. Frantzman
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