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History Corner





George L. Craik On King Alfred’s Legacy Of Learning

George L. Craik, A Manual of English Literature

(London: Charles Griffin and Co.; 1865), p. 15.


‘The measures begun by Alfred [in the 9th century] for effecting the literary civilization of his subjects were probably pursued under his successors; but the period of the next three quarters of a century, notwithstanding some short intervals of repose, was on the whole too troubled to admit of much attention being given to the carrying out of his plans, or even, it may be apprehended, the maintenance of what he had set up.

Dunstan, indeed, during his administration, appears to have exerted himself with zeal in enforcing a higher standard of learning as well as of morals, or of asceticism, among the clergy.

But the renewal of the Danish wars, after the accession of Ethelred, and the state of misery and confusion in which the country was kept from this cause till its conquest by Canute, nearly forty years after, must have again laid in ruins the greater part of its literary as well as ecclesiastical establishments.

The concluding portion of the tenth century was thus, probably, a time of as deep intellectual darkness in England as it was throughout most of the rest of Europe.

Under Canute, however, who was a wise as well as a powerful sovereign, the schools no doubt rose again and flourished.’