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on 14 March 2016
Great book, a very good read, and we are indebted to Sarah Foot for a fact based, well researched, but is easy reading book, which captivates us to appreciate the amazing character that Athelstan clearly was. Yes first King of all England, all Britain really, why is he not better known? Surely it is the establishments dislike of any vulgar pre-conquest Englishness that may ensue from such thoughts. Alfred the Great, Althelstan's grand father is fine (just) but his amamzing grandson is clearly not. Perhaps Athelstan's victory of Brunanbugh is still not understood or appreciated for what it achieved. No political soap-box, but this is a very good enjoyable book, a brilliant read. I think it should be used as a compulsory school text book, so that we can appreciate our Anglo-Saxon forbears, before we were 'civilized' by our Norman ancestors.
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on 4 June 2017
Very well written.
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on 9 September 2015
Great book covering a period in history I didn't get an opportunity to study in school
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on 21 July 2014
Superb scholarship and a fluid writing style, make this the most authoritative account of the life and achievements of this highly significant Anglo-Saxon king in print today. Athelstan had no contemporary biographer (as Alfred the Great did) and, consequently is far less famous amongst the general public. This account, written by a foremost Anglo-Saxon expert, provides an impressive and meticulously researched academic analysis of this important ruler. This will, no doubt, be the account of Athelstan that will last a generation.
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on 30 September 2013
First, some background to my purchase of this book. I knew virtually nothing of this period in English history, and had no real interest, until I watched Michael Wood's superb TV series "Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons". This was riveting stuff; most people know of Alfred (the cake burner), but his son Edward the Elder, daughter Aethelflaed (Lady of the Mercians), and grandson Aethelstan? No chance. I needed to know more, so having scanned what was available I chose this.

This book did the job admirably. It's quite densely printed, quite lengthy and needed persistence to get through in a reasonable time. Given the relative paucity of hard facts that have survived from the 10th century, maybe, just maybe, the book is padded out a little, but hey, what do I know?

A fascinating and scholarly work, and a super introduction to a little-known king who was hugely important in the birth of modern England.
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on 4 March 2017
Awesome
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on 14 November 2013
I have to give this book 5 stars because of the amount of research that has gone into it. But if you are looking for a general history on Aethelstan this book may not be for you. This book anlayzes all the evidence thoroughly which can make it slow going. This book not only states theories and facts about Aethelstan but explains, in detail, the evidence used to come to those conclusions. To know everything there probably is to know about Aethelstan I doubt this book can be bettered. For such an important monarch in English history a crucial piece of work.
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on 4 February 2012
At last a comprehensive analysis of Athelstan and the early 10th Century.
There is nothing else like this book for its comprehensive coverage, coins, charters, continental sources, chronicles, letters etc.
Seems like a lifetime's work, this must be Sarah Foot's magnum opus - or can there be more to come about Anglo-Saxon Britain?
I look forward to that.
many thanks
PS Wouldn't it be great if Michael Wood ever got round to publishing his work on Athelstan. I've just listened to 90 mins of his inspiring lecture at Newcastle University available at
[...]
PPS also worth listening to the author, Sarah Foot and others talking with Melvyn Bragg BBC Radio 4 iplayer
[...]
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on 1 June 2013
For those of us interested in the Saxon Age in England King Athelstan is an important monarch to study. The ability to bring the king alive cannot have been easy when most of the writings of the time tell little about the person and more about the position. However the book provided fascinating glimpses of the man who as a boy was sent away to live with his aunt: The Lady of the Mercia. The warrior who protected and enlarged his kingdom and did not marry: perhaps in order to avoid chaos after his death? Perhaps he would have rather been a monk?
As I am trying to write fiction about Athelstan's era I can only thank Sarah Foot for adding to my knowledge and perceptions of a great but largely forgotten king.
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on 21 August 2016
I found this to a be an informative and detailed account of Aethelstan, considered to be the first King of England. This is much more than a biography of Aethelstan, but also a cultural, political and social survey of Ninth and Tenth-Century Anglo-Saxon England. It is quite rare to find biographies on our pre-Conquest kings, so this is a much welcomed addition to the scholarly Yale English Monarchs Series. Sarah Foot writes in a scholarly, logical way, suitable for student/scholar and general reader alike. I particular found the author's discussion of Aethelstan's historiography and the wax and wane of his historical reputation over the centuries fascinating. An added gem was an in-depth study of William of Malmesbury as a source on Aethelstan (in the appendices).

I would recommend this book even though, as Foot herself points out, the paucity of sources for Aethelstan makes writing a biography in the traditional sense a very difficult task.
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