The White Horse King is a brilliantly written biography of King Alfred. It is clear this book was thoroughly researched as Benjamin Merkle has brought the events to life in rich detail.
It written in such a way that it can be used for scholarly purposes yet is fairly easy to read. I don't generally read biographies, but this one seemed interesting. I was not disappointed; I could hardly put it down.
Prior to reading this biography I knew little of Alfred the Great, and I believe that is the case for many people. However, much can be learned about Western Civilization and the importance of having a Biblical worldview through studying his life.
As the fifth in line to throne, it would have seemed unlikely that Alfred would ever be king. As a small child his father sent him to Rome, and that proved to be a defining time in Alfred's life.
This was a period of time when the Viking raiders were pillaging most the English coastlands and taking over villages. Farms, churches, and monasteries were being burned and destroyed and many were slaughtered at the hands of the Vikings.
As Alfred ascended to the throne he faced the Viking aggressions with a poorly trained volunteer military. He had already lost much of his family to the Vikings, including his brother who had been sacrificed to the Viking gods.
Merkle has done a fabulous job of describing the tactics of both the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons in great detail. Much time is spent describing how Alfred was eventually able to establish a few periods of peace.
After pushing back the Vikings and taking captive one of there kings - to whom he showed incredible mercy, Alfred turned his attentions to building a better military and fortifying the towns.
This was at time when many years had passed since the Romans had left, and illiteracy was rampant and the people were falling into paganism. King Alfred realized that his people were being crippled by a lack of knowledge of God.
All of the Christian works of the day were in Latin, and few people outside of church scholars and monks could read it. In addition, most of the Anglo-Saxon people could not read or write their own language. Alfred set up public school system to teach the peasant children to read, and required all of the noblemen to learn to read. He hired monks and other scholars to translate parts of the Bible to the Anglo-Saxon language, knowing that his people needed the word of God in their own language - this was almost 700 years BEFORE the Reformation.
Seeing as America is falling into paganism now, not from illiteracy but from Biblical illiteracy I found it very refreshing to hear that so many years ago one very wise king saw the same problem. People need to know the Bible to avoid paganism, yet so many churches today have abandoned Bible teaching and replaced it with self-help or the social gospel.
I would highly recommend this book for home school classes or for anyone who wanting to understand the importance of having a Biblical worldview.
While I did receive a courtesy review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers, that in no way influenced my review.