The King Alfred the Great Awards

These awards recall the memory of the warrior/educator/administrator and ruler Alfred, generally acknowledged as “the Great” (849-899) who expelled Danes from Wessex and eventually from England. He used to be known to every primary school child, if only for the legend that he went to sleep in a humble cottage while he was on the run from the Danes, and allowed the bread on the fire to burn.

His life and work.


Alfred succeeded in government as well as at war. He was a wise administrator, organizing his finances and the service due from his thanes (noble followers). He scrutinized the administration of justice and took steps to ensure the protection of the weak from oppression by ignorant or corrupt judges. He promulgated an important code of laws, after studying the principles of lawgiving in the Book of Exodus and the codes of Aethelbert of Kent, Ine of Wessex (688–694), and Offa of Mercia (757–796), again with special attention to the protection of the weak and dependent. While avoiding unnecessary changes in custom, he limited the practice of the blood feud and imposed heavy penalties for breach of oath or pledge.

Alfred is most exceptional, however, not for his generalship or his administration but for his attitude toward learning. He shared the contemporary view that Viking raids were a divine punishment for the people’s sins, and he attributed these to the decline of learning, for only through learning could men acquire wisdom and live in accordance with God’s will. Hence, in the lull from attack between 878 and 885, he invited scholars to his court from Mercia, Wales, and the European continent. He learned Latin himself and began to translate Latin books into English in 887. He directed that all young freemen of adequate means must learn to read English, and, by his own translations and those of his helpers, he made available English versions of “those books most necessary for all men to know,” books that would lead them to wisdom and virtue. 

Lets see how King Charles III goes in comparison. This is a bit unfair because the king in those days could lead the army in battle, tell public officials and administrators what to do and spend as he liked from the public purse.


The Jacques Barzun Award for history, cultural studies and education. Keith Windschuttle.

The Brian Penton awards for bohemian or hippie conservatives. Barry Humphries (dec).  

In case you were wondering about hippie conservatism.

The William Harold Hutt award for industrial relations. Gerard Henderson

The Peter Bauer award for economics. Wolfgang Kasper

The Laughing for Liberty award. Barry Humphries (dec). The award was decided while Mr Humphries was alive. Regrettably this is the second posthumous winner. The first was Bill Leak. The idea of the award is to honour the long record of comics, artists, comedians and satirists who fought the good fight for liberty.

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June 12, 2023 6:53 pm

As a history nerd, I thank you for linking the past with the present, Rafe. Clever. I’ve always thought that the past anchors us, though in a positive sense, compared with the now orthodox ‘how dare the past have existed!’ perspective.

Jacques Barzun has been on my must-seek-to-read list for a few years now, but there have been too many distractions.

I recall my own limp suggestion from some years ago that we institute the Napalm Furball Awards, wherein Cats suggest the names of individuals who have far from excelled in a certain field, i.e. Dr. Antony Fauci (or Aussie equivalent) – The Democratisation of Community Health Award.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
June 13, 2023 11:34 am

Thanks, Rafe. I agree that it is high time we started our own awards, and made them serious, and put them out widely.

I strongly applaud the award Barzun Award to Quadrant’s Keith Windschuttle. He has kept Quadrant afloat and with a high reputation for quality for some years now, and his work as an historian of Australian Aboriginal conditions and circumstances restores a lot of much needed perspective to the earlier history of Australia. His work there will be regarded by later generations as genuine truth-telling that counters much of the poorly researched history of those times that is misinformation but which has gained traction in the past forty years.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
June 13, 2023 11:41 am

For those who haven’t yet caught up with the Netflix TV Series “The Last Kingdom” then do so if you are interested in the history of King Alfred. Based on the novels of Bernard Cornwall, they follow a fictionalised hero Uhtred, who is born a Saxon but raised a Dane. Uhtred becomes obliged to be a warrior for King Alfred (who is played with a tremendous tour de force) and fight the Danish incursions into what was to become England. The settings are reasonably authentic for the ninth century and the playout of Christianity vs heathenism that centres the story of this king is well done.

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
June 14, 2023 2:54 pm

How about something European. The Robespierre Award. Awarded to those who want to continue on a virtuous path even if it means ignoring existing laws. Then guillotining the dissenters …even if they are of your own side…but only to later be guillotined oneself. The nominations are Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Anthony $275 Albanese. At this point Scomo wins or loses by a head.

June 22, 2023 9:58 pm

Gerard Henderson on IR? The man is a DLP-er through and through. JSloan is a better pick (for frankly, any right of centre economist), surely. And while we’re on it, remember that the author of the current coalition policy of pre-emptive surrender on IR is none other than St Tony of the DLP …

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