King Alfred, the Great: King of Wessex (one of the English Kingdoms)

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King Alfred, the Great:

  • King of Wessex (one of the English Kingdoms)

  • He fought the Vikings more than any Saxon has done.

  • He was a young man trained to be a priest; he, thus, learned Christian virtues very well. He was a man of rare combination. He was a good ruler and military leader who stressed on social justice. Moreover, he was a very modest man who mingled with ordinary people, dressed like them and ate with them.

  • He formed the “Dane law,” a law that gave a large part of Britannia to the Danes and left another large part of Britannia to be ruled by the Saxons.

  • He was the savior; however his victories did not last long after his death.

His most important achievements:
He created the first public school in the world which was a school for the sons of the noble men. King Alfred felt that learning and education are very important. He was a good ruler as well as a good educator. Not only was he interested in creating the first public school, but also in translation. People as Clergy-men learned Latin because they believed that the Bible should be read in Latin, and that is why monasteries and churches became the center of education. However, King Alfred was concerned about the poor, who were going to be denied for their inability to read or learn the Latin language. Therefore, he started translating from Latin to the language spoken by the commons; the Vernacular or English.
The British Educational System:
Only boys were allowed education since the schools started. Schools were first built for religious purposes; to teach boys how to become priests. Some Charity schools were built by philanthropists (people who help the poor), but these schools did not give a very good basics of education.
In addition to the doctrine, schools were based on classics such as Greek and Latin, reading and writing and some simple arithmetic. They were for the sons of the rich because they were very expensive. These schools were also boarding schools. Students from these schools were expected to go to universities and were expected to serve the nation afterwards.
After graduation, they either become ministers of the Church or become part of the army as civil servants.
However, the public schools started to deteriorate because the curriculum was not challenging on one hand. It was not keeping up with the times, but was out-dated. On the other hand, there was a problem with keeping the boys under control. Headmasters like Thomas Arnold updated the curriculum; he added science for example so that it becomes more challenging. He also left the old system of punishment. He said that, instead, he had to fill up the boys’ time, so he added sports like Rugby, cricket and also some forms of art like acting and music.
Two systems of slavery existed:

  1. Chattel Slavery: personal serfdom, which means that the slave did not do anything for himself; no freedom, no rights.

  1. Tenorial Slavery: slaves were living on a land without freedom. They had some rights and at least they were protected.

  • The whole society depended on the idea of exchange; services were done for other services. A serf had to work the land; he kept a small portion of the crop for himself. He, thus, fed his family with his own labor.

  • Landlords had a moral obligation. He protected the serf; he was a kind of a life insurance to the serf. So, if anything happened to their family, the serfs did not fear for their lives because they knew they would get some protection from their landlords.

  • The Feudal System was an autocratic system founded by the Normans. It was a practical means of controlling the population and also a useful system for extracting money from landowners. Power and wealth, therefore, were in the hands of the minority.

  • This system bound the society together. People were expected to follow the orders of those higher than them (more powerful), and in return for that they were offered protection. They could receive advice on practical agricultural matters or legal disputes, and help from the educated priesthood that served the Lords.

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