By Jeremy Haslam
Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History, Volume 17 (2011)
Abstract: An overall model is presented for the development of London as a burh by King Alfred in late 879 or early 880, following the retreat of Guthrum’s Viking forces to East Anglia and the Fulham army to the continent, when it is suggested that Alfred regained control of London and eastern Mercia from Viking occupation. This reassessment has been made possible by a reinterpretation of the coinage of the 870s, and by a reconsideration of Alfred’s relationship to Mercia at this period. The historical and strategic developments which form the essential background to this event, which include Alfred’s relationship both with the Mercian king Ceolwulf and with Guthrum, are re-examined. The creation of a new burh in London is seen as a natural development of the system of burhs which had been established by Alfred all over Wessex in the previous two years, following his victory over Guthrum’s forces at Edington. It marked the extension of the burghal system into southern Mercia, of which Gloucester was arguably one of the first, which also involved the creation of new mints. The formation of a new garrison in London in 879 is seen as the key to the reinterpretation of the tactics employed against the Viking forces in the south-east in the 880s. The ‘events’ of 886, recorded in the Chronicle, are given a new interpretation as the celebration of ealdorman Aethelred’s assumption of responsibility for the defence of London and its region, consequent on his betrothal or marriage to Alfred’s daughter at this time.