A Short History of Wales
by Owen M. Edwards
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Again, the monasteries were dissolved. The wealth of the monasteries, their meadows and barns and sheep-runs and fish ponds, were coveted by the rich; the poor thought of them as sources of alms. The monks were good landlords; and they gave freely, not only the comforts of religion, but of their medicinal herbs and stores of food. The Welsh monasteries were not so rich as those of England, and they were all dissolved among the lesser monasteries—those with an income under 200 pounds a year. But though none of them were very rich, they nearly all had almost 200 pounds a year. Their loss affected the whole country, as each part of Wales had one or two of them—Tintern, Margam, Neath, and Whitland in the south; Strata Florida, Cwm Hir, Ystrad Marchell, and the Vanner in central Wales; and Basingwerk and Maenan in the north.

The Reformation brought the poorer classes in Wales, not only insults to their national and religious feelings, but material loss. It appealed only to the English bishops who had adopted the new Protestant tenets, and to the Welsh and English landowners who had lost their reverence for relics, and had learnt to hunger for land.

The movement was a severe strain on the loyalty of the Welshman to the Tudors, but he had learnt to look to the king for guidances and he suffered in silence. Mary was welcomed, and no Welsh blood was shed for the Protestant faith. The passive resistance to the Reformation might have broken out into a rebellion if a leader had come.

In Elizabeth's reign two attempts were made to disturb the religious settlement. One was made by the Jesuits—the wonderful society established to check the Reformation movement and to lead a reaction against it. In 1583 John Bennett came to North Wales; in 1595 Robert Jones came to Raglan; and several Welsh Jesuits suffered martyrdom. The other attempt was that of John Penry, who wished to appeal to the intellect of the people by means of the pulpit and the printing press. The apostle of the new creed was crushed, like those who wished to revive the old; he was put to death as a traitor in 1593, after a short life of importunate pleading that he might preach the Gospel in Wales.

Before the end of the reign of Elizabeth, however, the Welsh language was recognised. The last school founded, that of Ruthin in 1595, was to have a master who could teach and preach in Welsh. And in 1588 there had appeared, by the help of Archbishop Whitgift, the Welsh Bible of William Morgan. It was the appearance of this Bible that aroused the first real welcome to the Reformation. But the Reformation that gave England a Spenser and a Shakespeare aroused no new life in Wales, not a single hymn or a single prayer.


After the Tudors came the Stuarts. The Tudors did what their people wanted; the king and the people, between them, crushed the nobles. The Stuarts did what they thought right, and they did not try to please the people. Under the Tudors, there was harmony between Crown and Parliament; and Elizabeth left a prosperous people with strong views about their rights and their religion. But James I., and especially his son Charles I., tried to change law and religion. From the Tudor period of unity, then, we come to the Stuart period of strife.

From 1603 to 1642 the struggle went on in Parliament. The Welsh Members nearly all supported the king, and the Welsh people followed the Welsh gentry in strong loyalty. The most famous Welshman of the period was John Williams, who became Archbishop of York and Lord Keeper. He was a wise man; he saw that both sides were a little in the wrong; and if any one could have kept the peace between them, he could have done it. But the king did not quite trust him, and the Parliament almost despised him; and this happens often to wise men who get between two angry parties.

From 1642 to 1646, the First Civil War was waged. This was a war between the king and the Parliament over taxation, militia, and religion. The south-east, and London especially, were for Parliament; the wilder parts, especially Wales, were for the king. The only important part of Wales that declared for Parliament was the southern part of Pembrokeshire, which had been English ever since the reign of Henry II.

Wales was important to the king for two reasons. For one thing, it could give him an army, and he came, time after time, to get a new one. When he unfurled his flag and began the war at Nottingham in 1642, he came to Shrewsbury, and there five thousand Welshmen joined him. With these and others he marched against London, fighting the battle of Edgehill on the way. While the king made many attempts to get London until 1644, and while the New Model army attacked him between 1645 and 1647, the Welsh fought in nearly all his battles, their infantry suffering heavily in the two greatest battles, Marston Moor and Naseby. The war went on in Wales itself also—Rupert and Gerard being the chief Royalist leaders, and Middleton and Michael Jones being the chief Parliamentary ones. No great battles were fought, but there were several skirmishes, and much taking and retaking of castles and towns.

Wales was important to the king, also, because it commanded the two ways to Ireland. The King thought, almost to the last, that an Irish army would save him. Welsh garrisons held the two ports for Ireland, Chester and Bristol. Bristol was stormed by a great midnight assault, and Chester was forced to yield. In March 1647 Harlech yielded, and the war came to an end. By that time the king was a prisoner in the hands of the army.

The Second Civil War, in 1648 and 1649, was a struggle between the two sections of the victorious army. The Parliament wished to establish one religion, the army said that every man must be allowed to worship God as he liked. One was called the Presbyterian ideal, the other the Independent. The army was led by Cromwell, and Parliament was overawed. Then the Presbyterian parts rose in revolt- -Kent, Pembrokeshire, and the lowlands of Scotland. The New Model army marched against the Welsh, in order to break the connection between the northern and southern Presbyterians. The Welsh generals were Laugharne, Poyer, and Powell, who had all fought for Parliament in the first war. They were defeated at St Fagans, near Cardiff, and then driven into Pembroke. They determined to hold out to the last within its walls. Cromwell besieged them, and the great feature of the war was the siege of Pembroke. Walls and castles like those of Pembroke had become useless because of gunpowder. But Cromwell could not at once bring his guns so far. His difficulties were increasing daily: the Parliament was trying to come to terms with the king, all Wales around him was disaffected, the Scotch had crossed the border and were marching on London. After many weeks of assaults and desperate defence, the guns came and the old walls were battered down. Pembroke Castle, whose great round tower still stands, had protected William Marshall against Llywelyn and had enabled an important district to remain a "little England beyond Wales," was the last mediaeval castle to take an important part in war. The Scotch were soon defeated at the battle of Preston, and the king was brought to trial and put to death, the death-warrant being signed by two Welshmen—John Jones of Merioneth and Thomas Wogan of Cardigan. The date of Charles' execution is January 20, 1649.

The Commonwealth was established immediately, and Wales was looked upon with much distrust—the Presbyterian parts and the Royalist parts—by the new Government. It was represented in the English Parliaments, it is true, but its representatives were often English, and practically appointed by the Government. When the country was put under the military dictatorship of the major-generals, Harrison was sent to rule Wales.

Honest attempts were made to give it an efficient clergy; but the zeal of Vavasour Powel aroused much opposition. Wales either clung tenaciously to its old religion; or, if it changed it, the changes were extreme. Though the country generally returned to its old life and thought at the Restoration in 1660, much of the new life of the Commonwealth remained: congregations of Independents still met; Quaker ideals survived all persecution; and even the mysticism of Morgan Lloyd permeated the slowly awakening thought of the peasants whom, in his dreams, he saw welcoming the second advent of Christ.


Except to the reader who is of a legal or antiquarian turn of mind, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the least interesting in the history of Wales—the very centuries that are the most glorious and the most stirring in the history of England. The older historians stop when they come to the year 1284, and sometimes give a hasty outline of a few rebellions up to 1535. They then give the Welsh a glowing testimonial as a law-abiding and loyal people, and find them too uninteresting to write any more about them.

The history of Wales does, indeed, appear to be nothing more than the gradual disappearance of Welsh institutions. The Court of Wales was restored with the king in 1660; but its work had been done, and it came to an end in 1689. The Great Sessions came to an end in 1830; and, though we now see that their disappearance was a mistake, the bill abolishing them passed through Parliament without a division. The last difference between England and Wales was deleted; and if Wales has no separate existence left, why should we write or read its history?

Because the two centuries of apparent settlement and sleep were the period of a silent revolution, more important, if our aim is to explain the living present rather than the dead past, than all the exciting plots and battles of the House of Cunedda from the rise of Maelgwn to the fall of the last Llywelyn. During these centuries, the history of Wales ceases to be the history of princes and nobles, it becomes the history of the people. Owen Glendower's few years of power were a kind of prophecy; but Owen once appeared to the abbot of Valle Crucis, so tradition says, to declare that he had come before his time. We pass then, very gradually, from the history of a privileged class, speaking literary Welsh, with a literature famous for the wealth of its imagination and the artistic beauty of its form—we pass on to the history of a peasantry, rude and ignorant at first, retaining the servile traits of centuries of subjection, but gradually becoming self-reliant, prosperous, and thoughtful.

The real history of a nation is shown by its literature. Its records and its chronicles are but the notes and comments of various ages. In the period of the princes and nobles, you can trace the rise and decline of a great literature; watch how it gathers strength and beauty from Cynddelw to Dafydd ap Gwilym, and how the strength begins to fail and the beauty to wane, from Dafydd ap Gwilym to Tudur Aled. In the period of the people, from Tudor times on, the peasants tried at first to imitate the poetry of the past; then they began to write and think in their own way. It is not my aim to explain the periods of Welsh literature now; I am going to do that in another book. But, as I have mentioned three typical poets in the period of the princes, I will also mention three poets in the period of the people.

In 1579 Rees Prichard was born; in 1717, Williams Pant y Celyn; in 1832, Islwyn. We have, in these three, writers typical of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries respectively. Rees Prichard, still affectionately remembered in every Welsh home as the "Old Vicar," wrote stanzas in the dialect of the Vale of Towy—rough, full of peasant phrases and mangled English words; and he wrote them, not in books, but on the memory of the people. In the same valley, a century later, Williams Pant y Celyn wrote hymns, melodious and inspiring, of great poetic beauty, though with a trace of dialect; they were written and published, but they also haunted every ear that heard them. Beyond the Black Mountains, in the hills of West Monmouth, after another century, Islwyn wrote odes without a trace of dialect; they were written and remained for some time in manuscript; when published, they met with a welcome which shows clearly that Islwyn is the typical poet of modern Welsh thought. If you wish to see and realise the rise of the Welsh peasant, pass from the homely stanzas of the good Old Vicar's Welshmen's Candle to the poetic theology of Pant y Celyn, and from that to the poetic philosophy of Islwyn, where concentrated intensity of thought is expressed in a style that is, at any rate at its best, superior to the best work of the poets of the princes.

If I were to tell you the reasons for this change, I would be writing, in a slightly different form, what I have already written in this book about early Welsh history. The fall of Llywelyn, the Black Death, Owen Glendower's ideals and the Tudor legislation, all prepared the way.

The long-bow and gunpowder, we have seen, made the peasant as important as the noble in war. The long-bow made the coat of mail useless, gunpowder made the castle useless—the defence of the privileges of the Middle Ages departed.

Ideas of equality were advanced. They were looked upon at first as truths applicable only to a perfect and impossible condition, and their discoverers were ignored, if not hanged or burnt. But they always became a reality, and were victorious in the end. Take the truths discovered or championed by Welshmen. Walter Brute rediscovered the theory of justification by faith—that all men are equal in the sight of God, and that no lord could be responsible for them. Bishop Pecock advocated the doctrine of toleration—that reason, not persecution, should rule. John Penry claimed that the people had a right to discuss publicly the questions that vitally affected them. The history of the past shows that the apostles were condemned, the life of the present shows that their ideas lived.

Industry and commerce became more free. In Tudor times piracy was repressed, the march lordships were abolished, the privileges of the towns ceased to fetter manufacture, trade with England became free. In Stuart times roads were made, the industries depending on wool revived, and the industries of Britain began to move westwards towards the iron and the coal. In the Hanoverian period waste lands were enclosed, the slate mines of the north and the coal pits of the south were opened.

The Tudors succeeded in getting the upper classes to speak English, and to turn their backs on Welsh life. The peasant was left supreme: he knew not what to do at first, but light soon came.

Pass through Wales, and you will see the life of both periods—the ruined castles and the ruined monasteries of the old; the quarries and pits, the towns and ports, the churches and chapels, the schools and colleges of the present.


It is difficult to write about religion without giving offence. Religion will come into politics, and must come into history. It has given much, perhaps most, of its strength to modern Wales; it has given it many, if not most, of its political difficulties.

There are periods of religious calm and periods of religious fervour in the life of every nation. I do not know whether it is necessary, but it is certainly the fact—the two periods condemn each other with great energy. With regard to creed—the life of religion—you will find that the periods of energy tend to be Calvinistic—an intense belief that man is a mere instrument in the hands of God, working out plans he does not understand; while in periods of rest it tends to be Arminian—a comfortable belief that man sees his future clearly, and that he can guide it as he likes. With regard to the Church—the body of religion—it is fortunate, in times of calm, if it is established, to keep the spirit of religion alive; it is fortunate, in times of fervour, if it is free, in order that the new life may give it a more perfect shape.

Now we must remember that there can be no calm without a little indifference, and that there can be no enthusiasm without a little intolerance. So men call each other fanatics and bigots and hypocrites, because they have not taken the trouble to realise that there is much variety in human character and in the workings of the human mind. Perhaps it is also worth remembering that an institution is not placed at the mercy of a reformer, but gradually changed.

The eighteenth century was a century of indifference in religion in Wales, the nineteenth century was a century of enthusiasm. The Church at the beginning of the eighteenth century, at any rate as far as the higher clergy were concerned, was apathetic to religion, and alive only to selfish interests. The Whig bishops were appointed for political reasons; they hated the Tory principles of the Welsh squires, and they neglected and despised the Welsh people they had never tried to understand. In England, the Defoes and the Swifts of literature were encouraged and utilised by the political parties; in Wales, where clergymen were the only writers, the Whig bishops distrusted them, and silenced them where they could, because they wrote Welsh. The Church did not show more misapplication of revenue than the State, perhaps; but, while the people could not leave the State as a protest against corruption, they could leave the Church. And, during the middle of the eighteenth century, a great national awakening began.

The trumpet blast of the awakening was Howel Harris. He was a Breconshire peasant, of strong passion which became sanctified by a life-long struggle, of devouring ambition which he nearly succeeded in taming to a life of intense service to God. Many bitter things have been said about him, but nothing more bitter than he has said about himself in the volumes of prayers and recriminations he wrote to torture his own soul, and to goad himself into harder work. The fame of his eloquence filled the land, and districts expected his appearance anxiously, as in old times they expected Owen Glendower. Howel Harris was, however, no political agitator. He had an imperious will, and he wished to rule his brethren; he was aggressive and military in spirit; God to him was the Lord of Hosts; he preached the gospel of peace in the uniform of an officer of the militia, and he sent many of his converts to fight abroad in the battles of the century. He had a love of organisation; he established at Trevecca what was partly a religious community, and partly a co-operative manufacturing company. But, wherever he stood to proclaim the wrath of God, no shower of stones or condemnation of minister or justice could make those who heard him forget him, or believe that what he said was wrong.

If I were writing for antiquarians, and not for those who read history in order to see why things are now as they are, I would write details—important and instructive—about the Church of the eighteenth century, and about the congregations of Dissenters which the seventeenth century handed over to the eighteenth to persecute and despise. The Independents and Baptists sturdily maintained their principles of religious liberty, but they found the century a stiff- necked one, and their congregations were content with merely existing. The Quakers maintained that war was wrong while Britain passed through war fever after war fever—the Seven Years' War and the wars against Napoleon. Howel Harris' voice might have been a voice crying in the wilderness, if it had not been for the spiritual life of the existing congregations, conformist and dissenting. Modern ideas in Wales have been profoundly affected by the Quakers, and especially in districts from which, as a sect, they have long passed away.

The voice of Howel Harris called all these to a new life; and it is about that new life, in the variety given it by all the different actors in it, that I want you to think now. It made preaching necessary, for one thing; and it was followed by a century of great pulpit oratory. It profoundly affected literature. It gave Wales, to begin with, a hymn literature that no country in the world has surpassed. The contrast between the Reformation and the Revival is very striking—one gave the people a Church government established by law and a literature of translations, the other gave it institutions of its own making and original living thought. The Revival gave literature in every branch a new strength and greater wealth.

It created a demand for education. Griffith Jones of Llanddowror established a system of circulating schools, the teachers moving from place to place as a room was offered them—sometimes a church and sometimes a barn. Charles of Bala established a system of Sunday Schools, and the whole nation gradually joined it. The Press became active, newspapers appeared. It became quite clear that a new life throbbed in the land.


The new life brought an inevitable demand for a share in the government of the country, and this brought the old order and the new face to face. The political power was entirely in the hands of the squires, alienated from the peasants in many cases by a difference of language, and in most cases by a difference of religion.

The Act of 1535 had, as we have seen, given Wales a representation in Parliament. Each shire had one member only; except Monmouth, which had two. Each shire town had one member, except that of Merioneth; and Haverfordwest was given a member. The county franchise was the forty shilling freehold; it therefore excluded not only those who had no connection with the land, but the copyholder—who was really a landowner, but whose tenure was regarded as base, on account of his villein origin. This copyholder was undoubtedly the descendant of the Welsh serf of mediaeval times.

The first Reform Act, that of 1832, was won for the great manufacturing towns of England, but Wales benefited by it. It extended the franchise to the copyholder, and to the farmer paying 50 pounds rent, in the counties; it gave the towns a uniform 10 pounds household franchise. It also brought many of the towns into the system of representation. It raised the number of members from twenty-seven to thirty-two; the agricultural districts getting two, and the mining districts two.

The slight change in representation is a recognition of the growing industries of the country, especially in the coal and iron districts. The coal of the great coalfield of South Wales had been worked as far back as Norman times; but it was in the nineteenth century that the coal and iron industries of South Wales, and the coal and slate industries of North Wales became important. Cardiff, Swansea, and Newport became important ports; and places that few had ever heard of before—like Ystradyfodwg or Blaenau Ffestiniog—became the centres of important industries. But, in 1832, Wales was still mainly pastoral and agricultural; and the Act, though it did much for the towns, left the representation of the counties in the hands of the same class. Still, it was the towns that showed disappointment, as was seen in the Chartism of the wool district of Llanidloes and of the coal district of Newport.

The second Reform Act, of 1867, gave Merthyr Tydvil two representatives instead of one, otherwise it left the distribution of seats as it had been before. But the new extension of the franchise- -to the borough householder, the borough 10 pounds lodger, and especially the 12 pounds tenant farmer—gave new classes political power. It was followed by a fierce struggle between the old landed gentry and their tenants, a struggle which was moderated to a certain extent by the Ballot Act of 1870, and by the great migration of the country population to the slate and coal districts.

The rapid rise of the importance of the industrial districts is seen in the third Reform Act of 1885. The country districts represented by the small boroughs of the agricultural counties of Brecon, Cardigan, Pembroke, and Anglesey, were wholly or partly disfranchised. But the slate county of Carnarvonshire had an additional member; and in the coal and iron country, Swansea and Carmarthenshire and Monmouthshire had one additional member each, and Glamorgan three.

The third Reform Act enfranchised the agricultural labourer and the country artisan. In England many doubts were expressed about the intelligence or the colour of the politics of the new voter; but, in Wales, most would admit that he was as intelligent as any voter enfranchised before him; all knew there could be no doubt about his politics.

The character of the representation of Wales has entirely changed. The squire gave place to the capitalist, and the capitalist to popular leaders. Wales, whose people blindly followed the gentry in the Great Civil War, is now the most democratic part of Britain.


The chief feature of the history of Wales during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the growth of a system of education.

The most democratic, the most perfect, and the most efficient method is still that of the Sunday School. It was well established before the death of Charles of Bala, whose name is most closely connected with it, in 1814. It soon became, and it still remains, a school for the whole people, from children to patriarchs. Its language is that of its district. Its teachers are selected for efficiency—they are easily shifted to the classes which they can teach best; and, if not successful, they go back willingly to the "teachers' class," where all are equal. The reputation of a good Sunday School teacher is still the highest degree that can be won in Wales. Plentiful text books of high merit, and an elaborate system of oral and written examinations, mark the last stage in its development.

The Literary Meeting is a kind of secular Sunday School. The rules of alliterative poetry and the study of Welsh literature and history, and sometimes of more general knowledge, take the place of the study of Jewish history, and psalm, and gospel. The Literary Meetings feed the Eisteddvod.

The Eisteddvod passed through the same phases as the nation. It was an aspect of the court of the prince during the Middle Ages. In Tudor times it was used partly to please the people, but chiefly to regulate the bards by forcing them to qualify for a degree—a sure method of moderating their patriotism and of diminishing their number. In modern times the Eisteddvod is a great democratic meeting, and it is the most characteristic of all Welsh institutions. Its chairing of the bards is an ancient ceremony; its gorsedd of bards is probably modern. But the people themselves still remain the judges of poetry; they care very little whether a poet has won a chair or not, while a gorsedd degree probably does him more harm than good.

Elementary education, in its modern sense, began with the circulating schools of Griffith Jones of Llanddowror in 1730. They were exceedingly successful because the instruction was given in Welsh, and they stopped after teaching 150,000 to read not because there was no demand for them, but on account of a dispute about their endowments in 1779, eighteen years after Griffith Jones' death. They were followed by voluntary schools, very often kept by illiterate teachers.

Between 1846 and 1848 two organisations—the Welsh Education Committee and the Cambrian Society—were formed; and they developed, respectively, the national schools and the British schools. After the Education Act of 1870, the schools became voluntary or Board; education gradually became compulsory and free; and in 1902 an attempt was made to give the whole system a unity and to connect it with the ordinary system of local government.

The training of teachers became a matter of the highest importance. In 1846 a college for this purpose was established at Brecon, and then removed to Swansea. From 1848 to 1862, colleges were established at Carmarthen, Carnarvon, and Bangor.

The history of secondary education is longer. It was served, after the dissolution of the monasteries, by endowed schools—like that of the Friars at Bangor—and by proprietary schools. By the Education Act of 1889, a complete system of secondary schools, under popular control, was established. Two of the endowed schools still remain— Brecon, founded by the religionists of the Reformation, and Llandovery, the Welsh school founded by a patriot of modern times.

It was principally for the ministry of religion that secondary schools and colleges were first established. Schools were founded in many districts, and important colleges at Lampeter (degree-granting), Carmarthen, Brecon, Bala, Trevecca, Pontypool, Llangollen, Haverfordwest. Many of these have a long history.

Higher education had been the dream of many centuries. Owen Glendower had thought of establishing two new universities at the beginning of the period of the Revival of Letters; among his supporters were many of the Welsh students who led in the great faction fights of mediaeval Oxford. Oliver Cromwell and Richard Baxter had thought of Welsh higher education. But nothing was done. In the eighteenth century, and in the nineteenth until 1870, the Test Act shut the doors of the old Universities to most Welshmen; the new University of London did not teach, it only examined; the Scotch Universities, to which Welsh students crowded, were very far. In 1872, chiefly through the exertions of Sir Hugh Owen, the University College of Wales was opened at Aberystwyth, and maintained for ten years by support from the people. The Government helped, and two new colleges were added—the University College of South Wales at Cardiff in 1883, and the University College of North Wales at Bangor in 1884. In 1893 Queen Victoria gave a charter which formed the three colleges into the University of Wales. Lord Aberdare, its first Chancellor, lived to see it in thorough working order. On Lord Aberdare's death, the Prince of Wales was elected Chancellor in 1896; and when he ascended the throne in 1901, the present Prince of Wales became Chancellor.

The tendency of the whole system of Welsh education is towards greater unity. There is a dual government of the secondary schools and of the colleges, the one by the Central Board and the other by the University Court—a historical accident which is now a blemish on the system. The Training Colleges are still outside the University, but they are gravitating rapidly towards it. The theological colleges are necessarily independent, but the University offers their students a course in arts, so that they can specialise on theology and its kindred subjects. The ideal system is: an efficient and patriotic University regulating the whole work of the secondary and elementary schools, guided by the willingness of the County Councils, or of an education authority appointed by them, to provide means.

The rise of the educational system is the most striking and the most interesting chapter in Welsh history. But the facts are so numerous and the development is so sudden that, in spite of one, it becomes a mere list of acts and dates.


The French Revolution was condemned by Britain, and the voices raised in its favour in Wales were few. The excesses of the Revolution, and the widespread fear of a Napoleonic invasion, caused a strong reaction against progress. The years immediately after were years of great suffering, but the very suffering prepared the way for the progress of the future, because it made men willing to leave their own districts and to move into the coal and slate districts, where wages were high enough to enable them to live.

The first demand was for political enfranchisement. In 1832, in 1867, and in 1884 the franchise was extended, and every interest found a voice in Parliament. But, with the exception of the sharp struggle between the tenant and landlord after the Reform Act of 1867, the effects of enfranchisement on Wales have been very few. Two Acts alone have been passed as purely Welsh Acts—the Sunday Closing Act, and the Intermediate Education Act. In Parliament, the voice of Wales is weak even though unanimous; it can be outvoted by the capital or by four English provincial towns. Until quite recently its semi-independence—due to geography and past history— was looked upon as a source of weakness to the Empire rather than of strength. Its love for the past appeals to the one political party, its desire for progress to the other, but its distinctive ideals and its separate language are looked upon, at the very least, as political misfortunes. Education and justice have suffered from official want of toleration; the appointment of a County Court judge who could not speak Welsh, within living memory, has been justified by Government on the ground that Englishmen resident in Wales object to being tried by a Welsh judge.

Far more important to Wales than the Reform Acts are the Local Government Acts which followed them. When the Reform Act of 1884 added the agricultural labourer to the electors of representatives in Parliament, every interest had a voice. A further extension of the franchise would not affect the balance of parties, it was thought; and a British Parliament has no time or desire to think of sentiment or theoretical perfection. The Parliament found it had too much to do, the multiplicity of interests made it impossible to pay effective attention to them. The result has been that half a century of extension of the franchise has been followed by half a century of extension of local government. The County Council Act came in 1888, and the Local Government Act in 1894.

Of all parts of Britain, Wales had least local government, and needed most. Its justices of the peace were alien in religion, race, and sympathy; they were either country squires who had lost touch with the people, or English and Scotch capitalists who, with rare exceptions, took no trouble to understand the people they governed, or to learn their language. The vestry meeting had been active enough during the early part of the eighteenth century; but religious difficulties made it impossible for a semi-ecclesiastical institution to represent a parish. The Tudor policy had separated the people from the greater land-owners; the iron masters and coal-owners had not yet become part of the people; there was not a single institution except the Eisteddvod where all classes met.

In no part of the country was local government so warmly welcomed, and no part of the country was more ready for it. One thing the peasants had been allowed to do—they could build schools and colleges, churches and chapels. They had filled the country with these—their architecture, finance, government, are those of the peasant. The religious revivals had left organisers and institutions. Four or five religious bodies had a system of institutions—parish, district, county, central. All these were thoroughly democratic in character. When the Local Government Acts were passed, there was hardly a Welshman of full age and average ability who had not been a delegate or in authority; and those of striking ability, if they could afford the time, continually sat in some little council or other and watched over the interests of some institution.

It was from among these trained men that the councillors for the new county, district, and parish senates were elected. The work of the councils, especially that of the County Council, has been very difficult; and when the time comes to write their history, the historian will have to set himself to explain why the first councils were served by men who had extraordinary tact for government and great skill in financial matters. In the lower councils the village Hampden's eloquence is modified by the chilling responsibility for the rates, but the Parish Councils have already, in many places, made up for the negligence of generations of sleepy magistrates and officials.

With a great difference, it is true, Wales under local government is Wales back again in the times of the princes. The parish is roughly the maenol, the district is the commote or the cantrev, the shire is the little kingdom—like Ceredigion or Morgannwg—which fought so sturdily against any attempt to subject it.

The local councils were fortunate in the time of their appearance. They came at a period characterised by an intense desire for a better system of education, and at a time of rapidly growing prosperity. A heavy rate was possible, and the people were willing to bear it. The County Councils were able to build over seventy intermediate schools within a few years; and that at a time when both elementary and higher education made heavy demands on what was still a comparatively poor county. The District Councils were able to lower the amount of outdoor relief considerably, and without causing any real hardship, for they had knowledge of their districts as well as the philanthropy that comes naturally to man when he grants other people's money. The Parish Councils have become the guardians of public paths; they have begun to provide parish libraries, and the little parish senate educates its constituency and brings its wisdom to bear upon a number of practical questions, such as cottage gardens and fairs.


The most striking characteristic of the Wales of to-day is its unity- -self-conscious and self-reliant. The presence of this unity is felt by all, though it may be explained in different ways. It cannot be explained by race; for the population of the west midlands and the north of England, possibly of the whole of it, have been made up of the same elements. It cannot be explained by language—nearly one half of the Welsh people speak no Welsh. Some attribute it to the inexorable laws of geography and climate, others to the fatalism of history. Others frivolously put it down to modern football. But no one who knows Wales is ignorant of it.

The modern unity of the Welsh people—seen occasionally in a function of the University, or at a national Eisteddvod, or in a conference of the County Councils—has become a fact in spite of many difficulties.

One difficulty has been the absence of a capital. The office of the University and the National Museum are at Cardiff, in the extreme south; the National Library is at Aberystwyth, on the western sea. The thriving industries, the densely populated districts, and the frequent and active railways, are in the extreme south or in the extreme north; and they are separated by five or six shires of pastures and sheep-runs, without large towns, and with comparatively few railways. In the three southern counties—Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Carmarthen—the population is between two and six people to 10 acres, and the industrial population is from twelve to three times the number of the agricultural. In the central counties—Brecon, Radnor, Cardigan, Merioneth, Montgomery—the population is below one for 10 acres; the industrial and agricultural population are about equal, except in Radnor, where the agricultural is more than two to one. Though Merioneth has more sheep even than Brecon—and each of them has nearly 400,000—its industrial population, owing to the slate districts, is double the agricultural. The population begins to thicken again as we get nearer the slate, limestone, and coal districts. In Denbigh it is two to the 10 acres, in Carnarvon it is three, and in Flint it rises to four or five. In these northern counties the industrial population is double or treble the agricultural. The fertile western counties of Pembroke and Anglesey come between the industrial and grazing counties in density of population. {4}

Unity has arisen in spite of differences caused by the intensity of a religious revival, an intensity that periodically renews its strength. The Welsh are divided into sects, and the bitterness of sectarian differences occasionally invades politics and education. But there are two ever-present antidotes. One is the Welsh sense of humour, the nearest relative or the best friend of toleration. The other is the hymn—creed has been turned into song, and that is at least half way to turning it into life; the heresy hunter is disarmed by the poetry of the hymn, and its music has charms to soothe the sectarian breast. The co-operation of all in the work of local government has also enlarged sympathy.

Unity has arisen in spite of the bilingual difficulty. Rather more than one half of the people now habitually speak English. For three centuries an Act—a dead letter from the beginning—ordered all Government officials to speak English; for many generations, until recently, Welsh children were not taught Welsh in schools, and they could not be taught English. The bilingual difficulty is now at an end. The two languages are taught in the schools, and as living languages. It is clear, on the one hand, that every one should learn English, the language of the Empire and of commerce. It is also clear that, on account of its own beauty as well as that of the great literature it enshrines, Welsh should be taught in every school throughout Wales.

Next to its unity, a characteristic of modern Wales is its democratic feeling. It is a country with a thoughtful and intelligent peasantry, and it is a country without a middle class. There is a very small upper class—the old Welsh land-owning families who once, before they turned their backs on Welsh literature, led the country. They have never been hated or despised, they are simply ignored. Their tendency now is to come into touch with the people, and they are always welcomed. But a middle class, in the English sense, does not exist. The wealthier industrial class is bound by the closest ties of sympathy to the farmer and labourer. The farmer's holding is generally small—from 50 to 250 acres—and he always treats his servants and labourers as equals.

The three great levelling causes—religion, industry, {5} and education—have been at work in Wales in recent years. Education helps and is helped by equality. In town and country alike all Welsh children attend the same schools—elementary and secondary; and they proceed, those that do proceed, to the same University, and a university is essentially a levelling institution. The dialects, as well as the literary language, are recognised; and no dialect has a stigma. In this respect Wales is more like Scotland than England.

There is one other characteristic of modern Wales—a certain pride, not so much in what has been done, but in what is going to be done. Wales is small, though not much smaller than Palestine, or Holland, or Switzerland, and every part of it knows the other. There is a healthy rivalry between its towns and between its colleges; each town can show that it has done something for Wales in the past—by means of its industries, or school, or press. In the strong feeling of unity there is ambition to surpass, and each part lives in the light of the action of the other parts.

The day is a day of incessant activity—industrial, educational, literary, and political. What is true in the life of the individual is true in the life of a nation—a day of hard work is a happy day and a day of hope.



1. The nature of its rocks—Igneous, Cambrian, Silurian, Old Red Sandstone, Limestone, Coal—all belonging to the Primary Period. Its rocks

(a) explain its scenery; (b) explain its wealth, the richest part of Britain in minerals.

2. The configuration of its surface.

(a) It is isolated, its mountains being surrounded by the sea, or rising sharply from the plains. It is part of the range of mountains which runs along the whole of the west coast of Britain; but the range is broken at the mouth of the Severn and at the mouth of the Dee.

(b) It is divided, its valleys and roads radiating in all directions. So we have in its history

A. Wars of Independence. B. Civil War.


1. The Iberians—a general name for the short dark people who still form the greater part of the nations. They had stone weapons, and lived in tribes; they became subject to later invaders, but gradually became free. Their language is lost.

2. The Celts—a tall fair-haired race, speaking an Aryan tongue. It was their migration that was stopped by the rise of Rome. Four groups of mountains, four nations (Celtic and Iberian), four mediaeval kingdoms, and four modern dioceses can be remembered thus:

i. Snowdonia Decangi Gwynedd Bangor ii. Berwyn Ordovices Powys St Asaph iii. Plinlimmon Demetae Dyved St David's iv. Black Mountains Silures Morgannwg Llandaff

3. The Romans. They made roads, built cities, worked mines.

50-78. The Conquest. The Silures were defeated in 50, the Decangi in 58, the Ordovices in 78. 80-200. The Settlement. Wales part of a Roman province including Chester and York. 200-450. The struggle against the new wandering nations. The introduction of Christianity. 450- The House of Cunedda represents Roman rule.

4. The English.

577. Battle of Deorham. Wales separated from Cornwall. 613. Battle of Chester. Wales separated from Cumbria.


Isolated after the battles of Deorham and Chester, mediaeval Wales begins to make its own history. The House of Cunedda represents unity, the other princes represent independence. English, Danish, Norman attacks from without.

1. 613-1063. The struggle between the Welsh princes and the English provincial kings. From the battle of Chester to the fall of Griffith ap Llywelyn.

(a) Between Wales and Northumbria, 613-700; for the sovereignty of the north. Cadwallon, Cadwaladr v. Edwin, Oswald, Oswiu.

(b) Between Wales and Mercia, 700-815; for the valley of the Severn. Rhodri Molwynog and his sons v. Ethelbald and Offa.

(c) Between Wales and the Danes, 815-1000. Rhodri the Great and Howel the Good.

(d) Between Wales and Wessex, 1000-1063; for political influence. Griffith ap Llywelyn v. Harold.

2. 1063-1284. The struggle between the Welsh princes and the central English kings.

(a) 1066-1137. The Norman Conquest. Norman barons v. Griffith ap Conan and Griffith ap Rees. 1063. Bleddyn of Powys tries to unite Wales. 1070. William the Conqueror at Chester. Advance of Norman barons from Chester, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Gloucester. 1075. Death of Bleddyn; succeeded by Trahaiarn. 1077. Battle of Mynydd Carn. Restoration of House of Cunedda— Griffith ap Conan in the north; Rees, followed by his son Griffith, in the south. 1094. Norman castles dominate Powys, Gwent, Morgannwg, and Dyved. Gwynedd and Deheubarth threatened. 1137. Death of Griffith ap Conan and Griffith ap Rees, after setting bounds to the Norman Conquest.

(b) 1137-1197. The struggle against Henry II. and his sons. 1137. The accession of Owen Gwynedd and of the Lord Rees of the Deheubarth. 1157. Henry II. interferes in the quarrel of Owen and Cadwaladr. 1564. The Cistercians at Strata Florida. 1164. Meeting of Owen Gwynedd, the Lord Rees, and Owen Cyveiliog at Corwen, to oppose Henry II. 1170. Death of Owen Gwynedd. 1188. Preaching of the Crusades in Wales. 1189. Death of Henry II. 1197. Death of the Lord Rees.

(c) 1194-1240. The reign of Llywelyn the Great. 1194-1201. Securing the crown of Gwynedd. 1201-1208. Alliance with King John. 1208-1212. War with John. 1212-1218. Alliance with barons of Magna Carta. 1218-1226. Struggle with the Marshalls of Pembroke. 1226-1240. Unity of Wales: alliance with Marshalls.

(d) 1240-1284. The Wars of Independence. 1241. David II. does homage to Henry III. 1244. Death of Griffith, in trying to escape from the Tower of London. 1245. Fierce fighting on the Conway. 1254. Edward (afterwards Edward I.) Earl of Chester. 1255. Llywelyn ap Griffith supreme in Gwynedd. 1263. Alliance with the English barons. 1267. Treaty of Montgomery; Llywelyn Prince of Wales. 1274. Llywelyn refuses to do homage to Edward I. 1277. Treaty of Rhuddlan; Llywelyn keeps Gwynedd only. 1278. Llywelyn marries Eleanor de Montfort. 1282. Last war. Battle of Moel y Don. Llywelyn's death. 1284. Statute of Wales.

3. 1284-1535. The rule of sheriff and march lord. 1287. Revolt of Ceredigion. 1294. Revolts In Gwynedd, Dyved, Morgannwg. 1315. Revolt of Llywelyn Bren. 1349. The Black Death in Wales. 1400. Rise of Owen Glendower. 1402. Battles of the Vyrnwy and Bryn Glas. 1404. Anti-Welsh legislation. 1455. The Wars of the Roses. 1461. Battle of Mortimer's Cross. 1468. Siege of Harlech. 1469. Battle of Edgecote. 1478. Court of Wales at Ludlow. 1485. Battle of Bosworth and accession of Henry VII. 1535. Act of Union. All Wales governed by king through sheriffs.


In 1535 the march lordships were formed into shires, and a reign of law began.

1535-1603. Period of loyalty to Tudor sovereigns—for equality before law and political rights. 1536. The march lordships become shire ground. Wales given a representation in Parliament, and its own system of law courts—the Great Sessions of Wales. 1539. Welsh passive resistance to the Reformation. 1567. Sir Thomas Middleton opens silver mines of Cardiganshire. 1588. Bishop Morgan's Welsh Bible. 1593. Execution of John Penry. Results 1. Destruction of power of barons. 2. Anglicising of gentry. 3. A Welsh Bible.

1603-1689. Struggle between new and old ideas. 1618. Coal of South Wales attracts attention. 1640. First Civil War. 1644. Brereton and Myddleton win North Wales, Laugharne and Poyer win South Wales, for Parliament. 1648. Second Civil War: siege of Pembroke. 1650. Puritan "Act for the better Propagation of the Gospel in Wales." 1670. Vavasour Powell dies in prison. 1689. Abolition of the Court of Wales.

1689-1894. Rise of the Welsh democracy. 1719. Copper works at Swansea. 1730. Griffith Jones' circulating schools. 1750. Iron furnaces at Merthyr Tydvil. 1773. Death of Howel Harris. 1814. Death of Charles of Bala. 1830. Abolition of Great Sessions of Wales. 1832. First Reform Bill. 1839. Chartism at Llanidloes and Newport. 1867. Second Reform Bill. 1872, 1883, 1884. University Colleges. 1884. Third Reform Bill. 1888. County Council Act. 1889. Secondary Education Act. 1894. Local Government Act. University of Wales.



CUNEDDA WLEDIG (Dux Britanniae). MAELGWN GWYNEDD CADWALADR Idwal Rhodri Molwynog Conan Tindaethwy Esyllt=Mervin RHODRI THE GREAT + -+ + -+ Anarawd Cadell Mervin HOWEL THE Idwal the GOOD Bald Iago Owen ? + -+ Conan {6} Einion (See Table Meredith II.) Cadell LLYWELYN AB SEISYLLT=Angharad*=Cynvyn Tewdwr {6} (See Table + -+ + -+ -+ III.) GRIFFITH BLEDDYN Rhiwallon (See Table IV.)


GRIFFITH AP CONAN + OWEN GWYNEDD Cadwaladr Gwenllian=G. ap Rees + + Iorwerth DAVID I. LLYWELYN THE GREAT + + Griffith DAVID II. + - Eleanor de=LLYWELYN Owen David Rhodri Montfort THE LAST the Red Thomas Gwenllian Owen of Wales




BLEDDYN AP CYNVYN - MEREDITH CADWGAN IORWERTH Owen of Powys MADOC OWEN CYVEILIOG Griffith Maelor GRIFFITH Madoc GWENWYNWYN Griffith of Bromfield Madoc Griffith Vychan Madoc Griffith Griffith Vychan OWEN GLENDOWER.


LLYWELYN THE GREAT Gladys the Dark=Ralph Mortimer of Wigmore Roger Mortimer=Matilda de Braose + + Edmund Roger of Chirk Roger, first Earl of March EDWARD III. Edmund + -+ + Roger, second Earl Lionel of John of Edmund of of March Clarence Gaunt York Edmund, third Earl of March=Philipa + -+ + Roger Edmund=d. of Glendower + + + -+ Edmund Anne=Richard, Earl of Cambridge Richard, Duke of York (killed at Wakefield, 1460) + + + EDWARD IV RICHARD III (killed at Bosworth, 1485) Henry VII.=Elizabeth HENRY VIII


EDWARD III. John of Gaunt + + HENRY IV. John Beaufort I., Earl of Somerset Owen Tudor=Catherine of France=HENRY V. John Beaufort II., Duke of Somerset HENRY VI. Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond=Margaret Beaufort HENRY VII. HENRY VIII. + + + EDWARD VI. MARY ELIZABETH


By the Act of 1535. By the Act of 1832. GLAMORGAN 1 County Member 2 County Members 1 Member for Cardiff 1 Member for Cardiff, Cowbridge, and Llantrisant 1 Member for Swansea, Loughor, Neath, Aberavon, and Kenfig. 1 Member for Merthyr Tydvil. MONMOUTH 2 County Members 2 County Members 1 Member for Monmouth 1 Member for Monmouth CARMARTHEN 1 County Member 2 County Members 1 Member for Carmarthen 1 Member for Carmarthen and Llanelly PEMBROKE 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Pembroke 1 Member for Pembroke, 1 Member for Tenby, Wiston, Milford Haverfordwest. 1 Member for Haverfordwest, Narberth, Fishguard CARDIGANSHIRE 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Cardigan 1 Member for Cardigan, Aberystwyth, Adpar, and Lampeter BRECONSHIRE 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Brecon 1 Member for Brecon RADNORSHIRE 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Radnor 1 Member for Radnor, Knighton, Rhayadr, Cefnllys, Knucklas, Presteign MONTGOMERYSHIRE 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Montgomery 1 Member for Montgomery, Llanidloes, Machynlleth, Newtown, Welshpool, Llanfyllin MERIONETHSHIRE 1 County Member 1 County Member DENBIGHSHIRE 1 County Member 2 County Members 1 Member for Denbigh 1 Member for Denbigh, Ruthin, Holt, Wrexham FLINTSHIRE 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Flint 1 Member for Flint, Rhuddlan, St Asaph, Mold, Holywell, Caerwys, Caergwrle, Overton CARNARVONSHIRE 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Carnarvon 1 Member for Carnarvon, Conway, Bangor, Nevin, Pwllheli, Criccieth ANGLESEY 1 County Member 1 County Member 1 Member for Beaumaris 1 Member for Beaumaris, Llangefni, Amlwch, and Holyhead


{1} Mihangel=Michael. Llan Fihangel = Si Michael's.

{2} Mair=Mary. Llan Fair=St Mary's.

{3} About 1291 the abbeys of Aberconway and Strata Marcella had over a hundred cows each, Whitland over a thousand sheep, and Basingwerk over two thousand.

{4} According to the census of 1901 the population per square mile of Glamorgan is 758, Monmouth 427, Carmarthen 141, Brecon 73, Radnor 49, Cardigan 88, Montgomery 68, Merioneth 74, Denbigh 197, Carnarvon 217, Flint 319, Pembroke 143, Anglesey 183.

The rate of increase per cent. between 1891 and 1901 are—Wales 13.3; England 12.1; Scotland 11.1; Ireland—5.2.

{5} In 1801 the population of Cardiff was 1870, and coal was brought down from Merthyr on donkeys. In 1901 the three ports of Cardiff, Newport, and Swansea exported nearly as much coal as all the great English and Scotch ports put together.

{6} The links between the House of Cunedda and the three ruling families after the Norman Conquest rest on the authority of tradition rather than on that of records.


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