Journal Article

King Alfred's Preface and the Teaching of Latin in Anglo‐Saxon England

Malcolm Godden

in The English Historical Review

Volume 117, issue 472, pages 596-604
Published in print June 2002 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online June 2002 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/117.472.596
King Alfred's Preface and the Teaching of Latin in Anglo‐Saxon England

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King Alfred's educational programme, described in the prefatory letter to his translation of the Regula Pastoralis of Gregory the Great, has often been understood as enunciating a clear distinction between vernacular literacy for the laity and Latin literacy for the clergy, and as setting forth a programme for training in both. The note argues that contextual considerations make it unlikely that the king intended such a distinction between lay and clerical languages, and that the terminology of his preface does not support it. The primary focus of his programme was on vernacular literacy; the study of Latin was noted as a desideratum for those intended for higher rank, probably in church or state, but ignorance of Latin was a common phenomenon amongst the ordinary Anglo‐Saxon clergy, at all periods, and there is no evidence that Alfred had the resources to change this or the wish to do so.

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Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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