History of Wales: Wikis


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History of Wales
Coat of arms of Wales.svg
This article is part of a series
Prehistoric Wales
Roman Wales
Wales in the Early Middle Ages
Norman Invasion
Late Middle Ages
Wales in the Early Modern Era
Modern Wales
Powys (Wenwynwyn, Fadog)
Colonial history
Literary history
Welsh Culture

Wales Portal
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The history of Wales begins with the arrival of human beings to the region thousands of years ago. Neanderthals lived in what is now Wales, or Cymru in Welsh, at least 230,000 years ago, while Homo sapiens arrived by about 29,000 years ago.[1] However, continuous habitation by modern humans dates from the period after the end of the last ice age around 9000 BC, and Wales has many remains from the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age. During the Iron Age the region, like all of Britain south of the Firth of Forth, was dominated by the Celtic Britons and the British language.[2] The Romans, who began their conquest of Britain in AD 43, first campaigned in what is now northeast Wales in 48 against the Deceangli, and gained total control of the region with their defeat of the Ordovices in 79. The Romans departed from Britain in the 5th century, opening the door for the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Thereafter British language and culture began to splinter, and several distinct groups formed. The Welsh people were the largest of these groups, and are generally discussed independently of the other surviving Brythonic-speaking peoples after the 11th century.[2]

Caerphilly Castle. The construction of this castle between 1268 and 1271 by Gilbert de Clare led to a dispute between Llywelyn the Last and the English crown, one of the issues which led to the wars of 1277 and 1282 and the end of Welsh independence

A number of kingdoms formed in the area now called Wales in the post-Roman period. While the most powerful ruler was acknowledged as King of the Britons (later Tywysog Cymru: Leader or Prince of Wales), and some rulers extended their control over other Welsh territories and into western England, none were able to unite Wales for long. Internecine struggles and external pressure from the English and later, the Norman conquerors of England, led to the Welsh kingdoms coming gradually under the sway of the English crown. In 1282, the death of Llywelyn the Last led to the conquest of the Principality of Wales by King Edward I of England; afterwards, the heir apparent to the English monarch has borne the title "Prince of Wales". The Welsh launched several revolts against English rule, the last significant one being that led by Owain Glyndŵr in the early 15th century. In the 16th century Henry VIII, himself of Welsh extraction, passed the Laws in Wales Acts aiming to fully incorporate Wales into the Kingdom of England. Under England's authority, Wales became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 and then the United Kingdom in 1801. Yet, the Welsh retained their language and culture in spite of heavy English dominance. The publication of the extremely significant first Welsh translation of the Bible by William Morgan in 1588 greatly advanced the position of Welsh as a literary language.[3]

The 18th century saw the beginnings of two changes that would greatly affect Wales, the Welsh Methodist revival, which led the country to turn increasingly nonconformist in religion, and the Industrial Revolution. During the 19th century southeast Wales in particular experienced rapid industrialisation and a dramatic rise in population as a result of the explosion of the coal and iron industries.[4] These industries declined in the 20th century, while nationalist sentiment and interest in self-determination rose. The Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party as the dominant political force in the 1940s, while the nationalist party Plaid Cymru gained momentum in the 1960s. In a 1997 referendum Welsh voters approved the devolution of governmental responsibility to a National Assembly for Wales, which first met in 1999.


Prehistoric Wales

The earliest known human remain discovered in modern-day Wales is a Neanderthal jawbone, found at the Bontnewydd Palaeolithic site in the valley of the River Elwy in North Wales, whose owner lived about 230,000 years ago in the Lower Palaeolithic period.[5][6] The Red Lady of Paviland, a human skeleton dyed in red ochre, was discovered in 1823 in one of the Paviland limestone caves of the Gower Peninsula in Swansea, South Wales. Despite the name, the skeleton is that of a young man who lived about 29,000 years ago at the end of the Upper Paleolithic Period (old stone age).[7][8] He is considered to be the oldest known ceremonial burial in Western Europe. The skeleton was found along with jewellery made from ivory and seashells and a mammoth's skull.

Bryn Celli Ddu, a late Neolithic chambered tomb on Anglesey

Following the last ice age, Wales became roughly the shape it is today by about 8000 BC and was inhabited by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. The earliest farming communities are now believed to date from about 4000 BC, marking the beginning of the Neolithic period. This period saw the construction of many chambered tombs particularly dolmens or cromlechs. The most notable examples of megalithic tombs include Bryn Celli Ddu and Barclodiad y Gawres on Anglesey,[9] Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire, and Tinkinswood Burial Chamber in the Vale of Glamorgan.[10]

Metal tools first appeared in Wales about 2500 BC, initially copper followed by bronze. The climate during the Early Bronze Age (c. 2500-1400 BC) is thought to have been warmer than at present, as there are many remains from this period in what are now bleak uplands. The Late Bronze Age (c. 1400-750 BC) saw the development of more advanced bronze implements. Much of the copper for the production of bronze probably came from the copper mine on the Great Orme, where prehistoric mining on a very large scale dates largely from the middle Bronze Age.[11]

The earliest iron implement found in Wales is a sword from Llyn Fawr at the head of the Rhondda Valley, which is thought to date to about 600 BC.[12] The British Iron Age saw the building of hillforts which are particularly numerous in Wales, examples being Pen Dinas near Aberystwyth and Tre'r Ceiri on the Lleyn peninsula. A particularly significant find from this period was made in 1943 at Llyn Cerrig Bach on Anglesey, when the ground was being prepared for the construction of a Royal Air Force base. The cache included weapons, shields, chariots along with their fittings and harnesses, and slave chains and tools. Many had been deliberately broken and seem to have been votive offerings.[13]

Until recently, the prehistory of Wales was portrayed as a series of successive migrations.[3] The present tendency is to stress population continuity; the Encyclopedia of Wales suggests that Wales had received the greater part of its original stock of peoples by c.2000 BC.[3] Recent studies in population genetics have argued for genetic continuity from the Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic or Neolithic eras.[14][15] The introduction of Celtic language in the Bronze Age may have been a result of immigration on a smaller scale.[citation needed]

Wales under the Romans: 48–410

Tribes within the boundaries of present day Wales at the time of the Roman invasion. Exact boundaries are conjectural

At the time of the Roman invasion of Britain in 43, all peoples in southern Britain were referred to as Britons and spoke the British language. The area of modern Wales was divided among a number of tribes, of which the Silures in modern south-east Wales and the Ordovices in central and northwest Wales were the largest and most powerful.[16] These two tribes were the ones who put up the strongest resistance to the Roman invasion.

The first attack on the Celtic tribes of what is now Wales was made under the legate Publius Ostorius Scapula about 48 AD, five years after the invasion of Britain, led by Aulus Plautius, under Claudius. Ostorius first attacked the Deceangli in the north-east, who appear to have surrendered with little resistance.[17] He then spent several years campaigning against the Silures and the Ordovices. Their resistance was led by Caratacus, who had fled what is now southeast England when it was conquered by the Romans. He first led the Silures, then moved to the territory of the Ordovices, where he was defeated by Ostorius in 51 AD.[18] Caratacus fled to the Brigantes, whose queen handed him over to the Romans.

The Silures were not subdued, however, and waged effective guerilla warfare against the Roman forces. Ostorius died with this tribe still unconquered; after his death they won a victory over the Roman Second Augusta Legion. There were no further attempts to extend Roman control in Wales until the governorship of Caius Suetonius Paulinus, who attacked further north and captured the island of Anglesey in 60 or 61 AD.[19] However he was forced to abandon the offensive to meet the threat from the rebellion of Boadicea. The Silures were eventually subdued by Sextus Julius Frontinus in a series of campaigns ending about 78 AD.[20] His successor Gnaeus Julius Agricola subdued the Ordovices and recaptured Anglesey by the beginning of 79 AD.[21]

Under Roman influence a Romano-British culture arose. The Romans occupied the whole of the area now known as Wales, where they built Roman roads and Roman forts, mined gold and conducted commerce, but their interest in the area was limited because of the difficult geography and shortage of flat agricultural land. Most of the Roman remains of Roman Wales are military in nature. The area was controlled by Roman legionary bases at Deva (Chester) and Isca (Caerleon), with roads linking these bases to auxiliary forts such as Segontium (Caernarfon) and Moridunum (Carmarthen). Romans are only known to have founded one town in Wales, Venta Silurum (Caerwent), although the fort at Moridunum (Carmarthen) was later superseded by a civilian settlement.[22] The modern day country of Wales is thought to have been part of the Roman province of Britannia Superior and later of the province of Britannia Prima, which also included the West Country of England.[23]

Post-Roman Wales and the Age of the Saints: 411–700


When the Roman garrison of Britain was withdrawn in 410, the various British states were left self-governing. Evidence for a continuing Roman influence after the departure of the Roman legions is provided by an inscribed stone from Gwynedd dated between the late 5th century and mid 6th century commemorating a certain Cantiorix who was described as a citizen (cives) of Gwynedd and a cousin of Maglos the magistrate (magistratus).[24] There was considerable Irish colonization in Dyfed in south-west Wales, where there are many stones with Ogham inscriptions.[25] Wales had become Christian, and the "age of the saints" (approximately 500–700) was marked by the establishment of monastic settlements throughout the country, by religious leaders such as Saint David, Illtud and Teilo.[26]

One of the reasons for the Roman withdrawal was the pressure put upon the empire's military resources by the incursion of barbarian tribes from the east. These tribes, including the Angles and Saxons, who later became the English, were unable to make inroads into Wales except possibly along the Severn Valley as far as Llanidloes.[27] However they gradually conquered eastern and southern Britain. At the Battle of Chester in 616, the forces of Powys and other British kingdoms were defeated by the Northumbrians under Æthelfrith, with king Selyf ap Cynan among the dead. It has been suggested that this battle finally severed the land connection between Wales and the kingdoms of the Hen Ogledd ("Old North"), the Brythonic-speaking regions of what is now southern Scotland and northern England, including Rheged, Strathclyde, Elmet and Gododdin, where Old Welsh was also spoken.[28] From the 8th century on, Wales was by far the largest of the three remnant Brythonic areas in Britain, the other two being the Hen Ogledd and Cornwall.

Gravestone of King Cadfan ap Iago of Gwynedd (died c. 625) in Llangadwaladr church

Wales was divided into a number of separate kingdoms, the largest of these being Gwynedd in northwest Wales and Powys in east Wales. Gwynedd was the most powerful of these kingdoms in the 6th century and 7th century, under rulers such as Maelgwn Gwynedd (died 547)[29] and Cadwallon ap Cadfan (died 634/5)[30] who in alliance with Penda of Mercia was able to lead his armies as far as Northumbria and control it for a period. Following Cadwallon's death in battle the following year, his successor Cadafael ap Cynfeddw also allied himself with Penda against Northumbria but thereafter Gwynedd, like the other Welsh kingdoms, was mainly engaged in defensive warfare against the growing power of Mercia.

Early Medieval Wales: 700–1066

see also 11th Century Gwynedd

Mediaeval kingdoms of Wales shown within the boundaries of the present day country of Wales and not inclusive of all.

Powys as the easternmost of the major kingdoms of Wales came under the most pressure from the English in Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire. This kingdom originally extended east into areas now in England, and its ancient capital, Pengwern, has been variously identified as modern Shrewsbury or a site north of Baschurch.[31] These areas were lost to the kingdom of Mercia. The construction of the earthwork known as Offa's Dyke (usually attributed to Offa, King of Mercia in the 8th century) may have marked an agreed border.[32]

For a single man to rule the whole country during this period was rare. This is often ascribed to the inheritance system practised in Wales. All sons received an equal share of their father's property (including illegitimate sons), resulting in the division of territories. However, the Welsh laws prescribe this system of division for land in general, not for kingdoms, where there is provision for an edling (or heir) to the kingdom to be chosen, usually by the king. Any son, legitimate or illegitimate, could be chosen as edling and there were frequently disappointed candidates prepared to challenge the chosen heir.[33]

The first to rule a considerable part of Wales was Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri The Great), originally king of Gwynedd during the 9th century, who was able to extend his rule to Powys and Ceredigion.[34] On his death his realms were divided between his sons. Rhodri's grandson, Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good), formed the kingdom of Deheubarth by joining smaller kingdoms in the southwest and had extended his rule to most of Wales by 942.[35] He is traditionally associated with the codification of Welsh law at a council which he called at Whitland, the laws from then on usually being called the "Laws of Hywel". Hywel followed a policy of peace with the English. On his death in 949 his sons were able to keep control of Deheubarth but lost Gwynedd to the traditional dynasty of this kingdom.[36]

Wales was now coming under increasing attack by Viking raiders, particularly Danish raids in the period between 950 and 1000. According to the chronicle Brut y Tywysogion, Godfrey Haroldson carried off two thousand captives from Anglesey in 987, and the king of Gwynedd, Maredudd ab Owain is reported to have redeemed many of his subjects from slavery by paying the Danes a large ransom.[37]

Gruffydd ap Llywelyn was the next ruler to be able to unite most of the Welsh kingdoms under his rule. Originally king of Gwynedd, by 1055 he was ruler of almost all of Wales and had annexed parts of England around the border. However, he was defeated by Harold Godwinson in 1063 and killed by his own men. His territories were again divided into the traditional kingdoms.[38]

Wales and the Normans: 1067–1283

At the time of the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the dominant ruler in Wales was Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, who was king of Gwynedd and Powys. The initial Norman successes were in the south, where William Fitz Osbern overran Gwent before 1070. By 1074 the forces of the Earl of Shrewsbury were ravaging Deheubarth.[39]

The killing of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn in 1075 led to civil war and gave the Normans an opportunity to seize lands in North Wales. In 1081 Gruffydd ap Cynan, who had just won the throne of Gwynedd from Trahaearn ap Caradog at the Battle of Mynydd Carn was enticed to a meeting with the Earl of Chester and Earl of Shrewsbury and promptly seized and imprisoned, leading to the seizure of much of Gwynedd by the Normans.[40] In the south William the Conqueror advanced into Dyfed founding castles and mints at St David's and Cardiff[41]. Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deheubarth was killed in 1093 in Brycheiniog, and his kingdom was seized and divided between various Norman lordships.[42] The Norman conquest of Wales appeared virtually complete.

Effigy wrongfully alleged to be of Rhys ap Gruffydd in St David's Cathedral

In 1094 however there was a general Welsh revolt against Norman rule, and gradually territories were won back. Gruffydd ap Cynan was eventually able to build a strong kingdom in Gwynedd. His son, Owain Gwynedd, allied with Gruffydd ap Rhys of Deheubarth won a crushing victory over the Normans at the Battle of Crug Mawr in 1136 and annexed Ceredigion. Owain followed his father on the throne of Gwynedd the following year and ruled until his death in 1170.[43] He was able to profit from disunity in England, where Stephen of Blois and the Empress Matilda were engaged in a struggle for the throne, to extend the borders of Gwynedd further east than ever before.

Powys also had a strong ruler at this time in Madog ap Maredudd, but when his death in 1160 was quickly followed by the death of his heir, Llywelyn ap Madog, Powys was split into two parts and never subsequently reunited.[44] In the south, Gruffydd ap Rhys was killed in 1137, but his four sons, who all ruled Deheubarth in turn, were eventually able to win back most of their grandfather's kingdom from the Normans. The youngest of the four, Rhys ap Gruffydd (The Lord Rhys) ruled from 1155 to 1197. In 1171 Rhys met King Henry II and came to an agreement with him whereby Rhys had to pay a tribute but was confirmed in all his conquests and was later named Justiciar of South Wales. Rhys held a festival of poetry and song at his court at Cardigan over Christmas 1176 which is generally regarded as the first recorded Eisteddfod. Owain Gwynedd's death led to the splitting of Gwynedd between his sons, while Rhys made Deheubarth dominant in Wales for a time.[45]

The Llywelyn Monument at Cilmeri

Out of the power struggle in Gwynedd eventually arose one of the greatest of Welsh leaders, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, also known as Llywelyn Fawr (the Great), who was sole ruler of Gwynedd by 1200[46] and by his death in 1240 was effectively ruler of much of Wales.[47] Llywelyn made his 'capital' and headquarters at Garth Celyn on the north coast, overlooking the Menai Strait. His son Dafydd ap Llywelyn followed him as ruler of Gwynedd, but king Henry III of England would not allow him to inherit his father's position elsewhere in Wales.[48] War broke out in 1241 and then again in 1245, and the issue was still in the balance when Dafydd died suddenly at the royal home Garth Celyn, Aber Garth Celyn, Gwynedd without leaving an heir in early 1246. Llywelyn the Great's other son, Gruffudd had been killed trying to escape from the Tower of London in 1244. Gruffudd had left four sons, and a period of internal conflict between three of these ended in the rise to power of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (also known as Llywelyn the Last Leader). The Treaty of Montgomery in 1267 confirmed Llywelyn in control, directly or indirectly, over a large part of Wales. However, Llywelyn's claims in Wales conflicted with Edward I of England, and war followed in 1277. Llywelyn was obliged to seek terms, and the Treaty of Aberconwy greatly restricted his authority. War broke out again when Llywelyn's brother Dafydd ap Gruffudd attacked Hawarden Castle on Palm Sunday 1282. On 11 December 1282, Llywelyn was lured into a meeting in Builth Wells castle with unknown Marchers, where he was killed and his army subsequently destroyed. His brother Dafydd ap Gruffudd continued an increasingly forlorn resistance. He was captured in June 1283 and was hanged, drawn and quartered at Shrewsbury. In effect Wales became England's first colony until it was finally annexed through the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542.

Conquest: from the Statute of Rhuddlan to the Laws in Wales Acts 1283 - 1542

Harlech Castle was one of a series built by Edward I to consolidate his conquest.

After passing the Statute of Rhuddlan which restricted Welsh laws, King Edward's ring of impressive stone castles assisted the domination of Wales, and he crowned his conquest by giving the title Prince of Wales to his son and heir in 1301.[49] Wales became, effectively, part of England, even though its people spoke a different language and had a different culture. English kings appointed a Council of Wales, sometimes presided over by the heir to the throne. This Council normally sat in Ludlow, now in England but at that time still part of the disputed border area in the Welsh Marches. Welsh literature, particularly poetry, continued to flourish however, with the lesser nobility now taking over from the princes as the patrons of the poets. Dafydd ap Gwilym who flourished in the middle of the 14th century is considered by many to be the greatest of the Welsh poets.

There were a number of rebellions including ones led by Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294–1295[50] and by Llywelyn Bren, Lord of Senghenydd, in 1316–1318. In the 1370s the last representative in the male line of the ruling house of Gwynedd, Owain Lawgoch, twice planned an invasion of Wales with French support. The English government responded to the threat by sending an agent to assassinate Owain in Poitou in 1378.[51]

In 1400, a Welsh nobleman, Owain Glyndŵr (or Owen Glendower), revolted against King Henry IV of England. Owain inflicted a number of defeats on the English forces and for a few years controlled most of Wales. Some of his achievements included holding the first ever Welsh Parliament at Machynlleth and plans for two universities. Eventually the king's forces were able to regain control of Wales and the rebellion died out, but Owain himself was never captured. His rebellion caused a great upsurge in Welsh identity and he was widely supported by Welsh people throughout the country.[52]

As a response to Glyndŵr's rebellion, the English parliament passed the Penal Laws in 1402. These prohibited the Welsh from carrying arms, from holding office and from dwelling in fortified towns. These prohibitions also applied to Englishmen who married Welsh women. These laws remained in force after the rebellion, although in practice they were gradually relaxed.[53]

Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII

In the Wars of the Roses which began in 1455 both sides made considerable use of Welsh troops. The main figures in Wales were the two Earls of Pembroke, the Yorkist Earl William Herbert and the Lancastrian Jasper Tudor. In 1485 Jasper's nephew, Henry Tudor, landed in Wales with a small force to launch his bid for the throne of England. Henry was of Welsh descent, counting princes such as Rhys ap Gruffydd (The Lord Rhys) among his ancestors, and his cause gained much support in Wales. Henry defeated King Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth with an army containing many Welsh soldiers and gained the throne as King Henry VII of England.[54]

Under his son, Henry VIII of England, the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542 were passed, integrating Wales with England in legal terms, abolishing the Welsh legal system, and banning the Welsh language from any official role or status, but it did for the first time define the England-Wales border and allowed members representing constituencies in Wales to be elected to the English Parliament.[55] They also abolished any legal distinction between the Welsh and the English, thereby effectively ending the Penal Code although this was not formally repealed.[56]

From the Union to the Industrial Revolution 1543 - 1800

Following Henry VIII's break with Rome and the Pope, Wales for the most part followed England in accepting Anglicanism, although a number of Catholics were active in attempting to counteract this and produced some of the earliest books printed in Welsh. In 1588 William Morgan produced the first complete translation of the Welsh Bible.[3][57] Morgan's Bible is one of the most significant books in the Welsh language, and its publication greatly increased the stature and scope of the Welsh language and literature.[3]

Wales was overwhelmingly Royalist in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the early 17th century though there were some notable exceptions such as John Jones Maesygarnedd and the Puritan writer Morgan Llwyd.[58] Wales was an important source of men for the armies of King Charles I of England,[59] though no major battles took place in Wales. The Second English Civil War began when unpaid Parliamentarian troops in Pembrokeshire changed sides in early 1648.[60] Colonel Thomas Horton defeated the Royalist rebels at the battle of St. Fagans in May and the rebel leaders surrendered to Cromwell on July 11 after the protracted two month siege of Pembroke.

Education in Wales was at a very low ebb in this period, with the only education available being in English while the majority of the population spoke only Welsh. In 1731 Griffith Jones started circulating schools in Carmarthenshire, held in one location for about three months before moving (or 'circulating') to another location. The language of instruction in these schools was Welsh. By Griffith Jones' death, in 1761, it is estimated that up to 250,000 people had learnt to read in schools throughout Wales.[61]

The 18th century also saw the Welsh Methodist revival, led by Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris and William Williams Pantycelyn.[62] In the early 19th century the Welsh Methodists broke away from the Anglican church and established their own denomination, now the Presbyterian Church of Wales. This also led to the strengthening of other nonconformist denominations, and by the middle of the 19th century Wales was largely Nonconformist in religion. This had considerable implications for the Welsh language as it was the main language of the nonconformist churches in Wales. The Sunday schools which became an important feature of Welsh life made a large part of the population literate in Welsh, which was important for the survival of the language as it was not taught in the schools.

The end of the 18th century saw the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and the presence of iron ore, limestone and large coal deposits in south-east Wales meant that this area soon saw the establishment of ironworks and coal mines, notably the Cyfarthfa Ironworks and the Dowlais Ironworks at Merthyr Tydfil.

The 19th century

In the early 19th century parts of Wales became heavily industrialised. Ironworks were set up in the South Wales Valleys, running south from the Brecon Beacons particularly around the new town of Merthyr Tydfil, with iron production later spreading westwards to the hinterlands of Neath and Swansea where anthracite coal was already being mined. From the 1840s coal mining spread to the Aberdare and Rhondda valleys.[63] This led to a rapid increase in the population of these areas.[4]

The social effects of industrialisation led to bitter social conflict between the Welsh workers and predominantly English factory and mine owners. During the 1830s there were two armed uprisings, in Merthyr Tydfil in 1831,[64] and the Chartist uprising in Newport in 1839, led by John Frost.[65] The Rebecca Riots, which took place between 1839 and 1844 in South Wales and Mid Wales were rural in origin. They were a protest not only against the high tolls which had to be paid on the local Turnpike roads but against rural deprivation.[66]

Partly as a result of these disturbances, a government enquiry was carried out into the state of education in Wales. The enquiry was carried out by three English commissioners who spoke no Welsh and relied on information from witnesses, many of them Anglican clergymen. Their report, published in 1847 as Reports of the commissioners of enquiry into the state of education in Wales concluded that the Welsh were ignorant, lazy and immoral, and that this was caused by the Welsh language and nonconformity. This resulted in a furious reaction in Wales, where the affair was named the Treachery of the Blue Books.[67]

Socialism gained ground rapidly in the industrial areas of South Wales in the latter part of the century, accompanied by the increasing politicisation of religious Nonconformism. The first Labour MP, Keir Hardie, was elected as junior member for the Welsh constituency of Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare in 1900.[68] In common with many European nations, the first movements for national autonomy began in the 1880s and 1890s with the formation of Cymru Fydd, led by Liberal Party politicians such as T. E. Ellis and David Lloyd George.[69]

Another movement which gained strength during the 1880s was the campaign for disestablishment. Many felt that since Wales was now largely nonconformist in religion, it was inappropriate that the Church of England should be the established church in Wales. The campaign continued until the end of the century and beyond, with the passing of the Welsh Church Act 1914, which did not come into operation until 1920, after the end of the First World War.[70]

The 19th century brought about a large increase in population as Wales, like the rest of the UK, largely attributable to high birth rates and the demographic transition. In 1801 just over 587,000 people lived in Wales; by 1901, this had increased to over 2,012,000.[71] The growth rate in the first half of the 19th century was almost 15 per cent per decade, falling to 12.5 per cent per decade for the rest of the century.[72] However, these changes were uneven. The most significant rises in population occurred in industrial counties - Denbighshire, Flintshire, although by far the largest part of the increase was in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire. From 1851, the population of rural counties such as Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire began to decline. The causes were complex, but included the transition from subsistence to capitalised farming, and the lure of new employment opportunities in industrial districts.[3]

Another aspect of demographic change in the late 19th century was immigration, principally into the industrial districts of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. Wales was the only area of the British Isles to experience net immigration from 1860 to 1914.[72] Between 1881 and 1891, Glamorgan received a net inflow of more than 48,000 people from England.[73]

The 20th century

World War I poster for a fundraising event in support of Welsh troops. Lithograph designed by Frank Brangwyn in 1915. Digitally restored.

The first decade of the 20th century was the period of the coal boom in South Wales, when population growth exceeded 20 per cent.[72] By 1911, Glamorgan and Monmouthshire contained 63 per cent of the Welsh population, compared to a third sixty years earlier.[72] Demographic changes affected the language frontier; the proportion of Welsh speakers in the Rhondda valley fell from 64 per cent in 1901 to 55 per cent ten years later, and similar trends were evident elsewhere in South Wales.[73]

In the early part of the century Wales still largely supported the Liberal Party, particularly when David Lloyd George became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the First World War. However the Labour Party was steadily gaining ground, and in the years after the Great War replaced the Liberals as the dominant party in Wales, particularly in the industrial valleys of South Wales.[74]

Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925 but initially its growth was slow and it gained few votes at parliamentary elections.[75] In 1936 an RAF training camp and aerodrome at Penyberth near Pwllheli was burnt by three members of Plaid CymruSaunders Lewis, Lewis Valentine, and D. J. Williams. This was a protest not only against the construction of the training camp, known as "the bombing school" but also against the destruction of the historic house of Penyberth to make room for it. This action and the subsequent imprisonment of the three perpetrators considerably raised the profile of Plaid Cymru, at least in the Welsh-speaking areas.[76]

The period following the Second World War saw a decline in several of the traditional industries, in particular the coal industry. The numbers employed in the South Wales coalfield, which at its peak around 1913 employed over 250,000 men, fell to around 75,000 in the mid 1960s and 30,000 in 1979.[77] This period also saw the Aberfan disaster in 1966, when a tip of coal slurry slid down to engulf a school with 144 dead, most of them children.[78] By the early 1990s there was only one deep pit still working in Wales. There was a similar decline in the steel industry, and the Welsh economy, like that of other developed societies, became increasingly based on the expanding service sector.

The post-war years saw the erosion of some Welsh traditions, such as religious non-conformity and Sunday closing, but the increasing reassertion of Welsh distinctiveness.[3] In 1955, Home Secretary Gwilym Lloyd George proclaimed Cardiff as the capital city of Wales[79] and in 1964 the first Secretary of State for Wales was appointed, heading a Welsh Office, the first stage in administrative devolution. In 1967 the Wales and Berwick Act, which specified that for legal purposes the term "England" should include Wales, was repealed. Nationalism became a major issue during the second half of the twentieth century. In 1962 Saunders Lewis gave a radio talk entitled Tynged yr iaith (The fate of the language) in which he predicted the extinction of the Welsh language unless action was taken. This led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) the same year.[80] Nationalism grew particularly following the flooding of the Tryweryn valley in 1965, drowning the village of Capel Celyn to create a reservoir supplying water to Liverpool. In 1966 Gwynfor Evans won the Carmarthen seat for Plaid Cymru at a by-election, their first Parliamentary seat.[81] The flooding of Capel Celyn also prompted the formation of militant groups such as the Free Wales Army and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC - Welsh Defence Movement). In the years leading up to the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969, these groups were responsible for a number of bomb blasts destroying water pipes and tax and other offices. Two members of MAC, George Taylor and Alwyn Jones, the "Abergele Martyrs", were killed by a home made bomb at Abergele the day before the investiture ceremony.

Plaid Cymru made gains in the two General Elections held in 1974, winning three seats. There was increased support for devolution within the Labour party and a Devolution Bill was introduced in late 1976.[82] However a referendum on the creation of an assembly for Wales in 1979 led to a large majority for the "no" vote.[83] The new Conservative government elected in the 1979 General Election had pledged to establish a Welsh-language television channel, but announced in September 1979 that it would not honour this pledge. This led to a campaign of non-payment of television licences by members of Plaid Cymru and an announcement by Gwynfor Evans in 1980 that he would fast unto death if a Welsh language channel was not established. In September 1980 the government announced that the channel would after all be set up, and S4C was launched in November 1982.[84] The Welsh Language Act 1993 gave the Welsh language equal status with English in Wales with regard to the public sector.[85]

In May 1997, a Labour government was elected with a promise of creating devolved institutions in Scotland and Wales. In late 1997 a referendum was held on the issue which resulted a "yes" vote, albeit by a narrow majority.[86] The Welsh Assembly was set up in 1999 (as a consequence of the Government of Wales Act 1998) and possesses the power to determine how the government budget for Wales is spent and administered.

Over the course of the 20th century, the population of Wales increased from just over 2,012,000 in 1901 to 2.9 million in 2001, but the process was not linear - 430,000 people left Wales between 1921 and 1940 largely owing to the economic depression of the 1930s.[87] English in-migration became a major factor from the first decade of the 20th century, when there was net gain of 100,000 people from England. In this era, most incomers settled in the expanding industrial areas, contributing to a partial Anglicisation of some parts of south and east Wales. The proportion of the Welsh population able to speak the Welsh language fell from just under 50% in 1901 to 43.5% in 1911, and continued to fall to a low of 18.9% in 1981. Over the century there has also been a marked increase in the proportion of the population born outside Wales; at the time of the 2001 Census 20% of Welsh residents were born in England, 2% were born in Scotland or Ireland, and 3% were born outside the UK.[88] Whereas most incomers settled in industrial districts in the early 1900s, by the 1990s the highest proportions of people born outside Wales were found in Ceredigion, Powys, Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire.

The 21st century

The results of the 2001 Census showed an increase in the number of Welsh speakers to 21% of the population aged 3 and older, compared with 18.7% in 1991 and 19.0% in 1981. This compares with a pattern of steady decline indicated by census results during the 20th century.[89]

In Cardiff the Millennium Stadium, opened in 1999,[90] was followed by the Wales Millennium Centre opened in 2004 as a centre for cultural events, notably opera. The new Welsh Assembly building, to be known as the Senedd, was completed in February 2006 and officially opened on St. David's Day that year.[91]

In 2006 the Government of Wales Act gained Royal Assent meaning that from May 2007 the Queen would have the new legal identity of 'Her Majesty in Right of Wales' and would for the first time appoint Welsh Ministers and sign Welsh Orders in Council. It also made provision for a future referendum to ask the Welsh people if they would like the Welsh Assembly to gain the power to pass primary legislation e.g. to make true Welsh laws.

See also


  1. ^ Davies, J A History of Wales, pp. 3–4.
  2. ^ a b Koch, pp. 291–292.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Davies, John (Ed) (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 572. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6. 
  4. ^ a b Williams G.A.When was Wales? p. 174
  5. ^ "Gathering the Jewels". Early Neanderthal jaw fragment, c. 230,000 years old. Culturenet Cymru. 2008. http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/small/item/GTJ27306/. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  6. ^ Davies, J A History of Wales, p. 3.
  7. ^ [1] www.channel4.com, accessed August 3, 2008
  8. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 4
  9. ^ Lynch, F. Prehistoric Anglesey pp.34-42, 58
  10. ^ "Tinkinswood". www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk. Accessed August 3, 2008
  11. ^ Lynch, F. Gwynedd pp. 39-40
  12. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 19
  13. ^ Lynch, F. Prehistoric Anglesey pp.249-77
  14. ^ Special report: 'Myths of British ancestry' by Stephen Oppenheimer | Prospect Magazine October 2006 issue 127
  15. ^ Capelli et al, "A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles" in Current Biology, Vol. 13, 979–984, May 27, 2003.
  16. ^ Cunliffe, B. Iron Age communities in Britainpp. 115–118.
  17. ^ Davies, J A History of Wales p. 28.
  18. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 53.
  19. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 55.
  20. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 57.
  21. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 58.
  22. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales pp. 31, 34
  23. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales pp. 39
  24. ^ Lynch, F. Gwynedd p. 126.
  25. ^ Davies, J. A History of Wales p. 52.
  26. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales pp. 143–159
  27. ^ Chromosome survey
  28. ^ Rickard, J (9 September 2000), Battle of Chester, c.613-616
  29. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 131.
  30. ^ Maund, Kari The Welsh kings p. 36.
  31. ^ Davies, J. A history of Wales p. 64.
  32. ^ Davies, J. A history of Wales pp. 65–6.
  33. ^ For a discussion of this see Stephenson Governance of Gwynedd pp. 138-141
  34. ^ Maund, Kari The Welsh kings p. 50–54
  35. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 337.
  36. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales pp. 343–4.
  37. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales pp. 351–2.
  38. ^ Maund, Kari The Welsh kings p.87-97
  39. ^ Davies, R.R. Conquest, coexistence and change pp. 28–30.
  40. ^ Maund, Kari The Welsh kings p. 110.
  41. ^ Political Chronology of Wales, 4-5.
  42. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 398.
  43. ^ Maund, Kari The Welsh kings pp. 162–171.
  44. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales pp. 508–9.
  45. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p. 536
  46. ^ Moore, D. The Welsh wars of independence p.108-9
  47. ^ Moore, D. The Welsh wars of independence p.124
  48. ^ Lloyd, J.E. A History of Wales p.693
  49. ^ Davies, R.R. Conquest, coexistence and change p. 386.
  50. ^ Moore, D. The Welsh wars of independence p. 159.
  51. ^ Moore, D. The Welsh wars of independence p.164-6
  52. ^ Moore, D. The Welsh Wars of Independence pp. 169–85.
  53. ^ Davies, J. A History of Wales p. 199.
  54. ^ Williams, G. Recovery, reorientation and reformation pp. 217-26
  55. ^ Williams, G. Recovery, reorientation and reformation pp. 268-73
  56. ^ Davies, J. A History of Wales p.233
  57. ^ Williams, G. Recovery, reorientation and reformation pp. 322-3
  58. ^ Jenkins, G. H. The foundations of modern Wales p. 7
  59. ^ Jenkins, G. H. The foundations of modern Wales p. 5-6
  60. ^ Davies, J. A History of Wales p. 280
  61. ^ Jenkins, G. H. The foundations of modern Wales pp. 370-377
  62. ^ Jenkins, G.H. The foundations of modern Wales pp. 347-50
  63. ^ Williams G.A.When was Wales? p. 183
  64. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 366-7
  65. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 377
  66. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 378-82
  67. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 390-1
  68. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation pp. 46-7
  69. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation pp. 113-118
  70. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation p. 183
  71. ^ 200 years of the Census in...WALES Office for National Statistics
  72. ^ a b c d Jenkins, P. (1992) A History of Modern Wales. Harlow: Longman.
  73. ^ a b Evans, D. Gareth (1989) A History of Wales 1815-1906. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
  74. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation p.272
  75. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation p.206-8
  76. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 592-3
  77. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 533
  78. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 629
  79. ^ Cardiff as Capital of Wales: Formal Recognition by Government. The Times. 21 December 1955
  80. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation p. 382-3
  81. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 667
  82. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation p.399-403
  83. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 677
  84. ^ Davies, J A history of Wales p. 680
  85. ^ Full text of the Welsh Language Act 1993
  86. ^ www.electoralcommission.org.uk: The 1997 Referendum
  87. ^ Morgan, K.O. Rebirth of a nation p.229-31
  88. ^ Results of the 2001 Census: Country of birth (www.statistics.gov.uk)
  89. ^ Results of the 2001 Census from www.statistics.gov.uk
  90. ^ Millennium Stadium website
  91. ^ The New National Assembly for Wales Senedd opened on St David’s Day National Assembly for Wales, Public Information page. Retrieved 4 May 2006


  • Brut y Tywysogyon or The Chronicle of the Princes. Peniarth Ms. 20 version, ed. and trans. T. Jones [Cardiff, 1952]
  • Annales Cambriae. A Translation of Harleian 3859; PRO E.164/1; Cottonian Domitian, A 1; Exeter Cathedral Library MS. 3514 and MS Exchequer DB Neath, PRO E (ISBN 1-899376-81-X)
  • Barry Cunliffe (1987) Iron Age communities in Britain' (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd ed) ISBN 0-7100-8725-X
  • John Davies, (1994) A History of Wales (Penguin Books) ISBN 0-14-014581-8
  • R.R. Davies (1987) Conquest, coexistemce and change: Wales 1063-1415 (Clarendon Press, University of Wales Press) ISBN 0-19-821732-3
  • Geraint H. Jenkins (1987) The foundations of modern Wales, 1642-1780 (Clarendon Press, University of Wales Press) ISBN 0-19-821734-X
  • Koch, John T. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. 
  • John Edward Lloyd (1911) A history of Wales: from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (Longmans, Green & Co.)
  • Frances Lynch (1995) Gwynedd (A guide to ancient and historic Wales series) (HMSO) ISBN 0-11-701574-1
  • Frances Lynch (1970) Prehistoric Anglesey: the archaeology of the island to the Roman conquest (Anglesey Antiquarian Society)
  • Kari Maund (2006) The Welsh kings: warriors, warlords and princes (Tempus) ISBN 0-7524-2973-6
  • David Moore (2005) The Welsh wars of independence: c.410-c.1415 (Tempus) ISBN 0-7524-3321-0
  • Kenneth O. Morgan (1981) Rebirth of a nation: Wales 1880-1980 (Oxford University Press, University of Wales Press) ISBN 0-19-821736-6
  • Remfry, P.M. (2003) A Political Chronology of Wales, 1066 to 1282 (ISBN 1-899376-75-5)
  • David Stephenson (1984) The governance of Gwynedd (University of Wales Press) ISBN 0-7083-0850-3
  • Glanmor Williams (1987) Recovery, reorientation and reformation: Wales c.1415-1642 (Clarendon Press, University of Wales Press) ISBN 0-19-821733-1
  • Gwyn A. Williams (1985) When was Wales?: a history of the Welsh (Black Raven Press) ISBN 0-85159-003-9

External links

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