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Reading History: Anglo-Saxon Kingship

Simon Keynes examines the variety of books on Anglo-Saxon rulers.

There was a time when the study of kingship in Anglo-Saxon England was largely a question of sorting the good kings from the weak and the bad, presumably to simplify matters at the Last Judgement. Assessing the personal qualities of kings on the basis of their recorded actions, and on the basis of things done by others in their name, remains an enjoyable (if dangerous) exercise, but not surprisingly the subject as a whole is now approached in a rather more sophisticated way. For example, distinctions are recognised between different grades of kingship (from subkings to overlords), and between the definition of royal power at each level; attention is given to the development of theories of kingship, and to their effect on the king's conduct of his affairs; and of course no effort is spared to work nut the details of the operation of royal government.

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