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A History of Wales Hardcover – January 4, 1994
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Perhaps history is to blame here -- the Welsh have been only marginally protected by geography; the mountainous area was difficult terrain to conquer, but the supply lines to those mountains were relatively easy to maintain and sustain, unlike the trek to the northern reaches of Scotland or crossing the sea into Ireland, areas that (however much English history might want to contradict this statement) never were completely conquered and subdued, remaining under the hegemony but outside the total control of Londinium/London from Roman times to the recent past. Wales was never so fortunate. Indeed, it is a miracle that the Welsh survive. The Scots lost land, language and independence, but retained administrative and legal systems separations that preserved many aspects of nationhood. The Irish never completely lost independence. The Welsh, however, lost everything of nationhood, and barely sustained an independent culture. Thus, when the 'nations' of the British Isles began to re-exert their independent interpretations of history, the Welsh were among the last.
However, sometimes the last shall be first. In terms of quality of writing and interpretation, the volume by John Davies, `A History of Wales', is indeed in a class of its own in terms of Welsh history. Dafydd Elis Thomas read into the `Hansard' (the British Parliamentary equivalent of the `Congressional Record') that this is 'the greatest of book of Welsh history ever written'.Read more ›
To understand Welsh history takes time and nobody acts a better personal guide than John Davies. This insightful book goes a long way to explain the curious juxtapostion of Welsh sympathy and antipathy to its domineering neighbours in England and the reasons for the demise of its language and culture, particularly during the last century. Although his writing is factual and unsentimental the book enables the reader to get a real flavour for Wales.
'A History of Wales' addresses the failure over many centuries to allow Wales its rightful place within British history. The text is thorough and comprehensive, yet never difficult to digest.
As Wales revives its national identity and political future, it's culture will gain increasing recognition worldwide over the next ten years, much as Ireland did in the eighties and nineties. Those who wish to know more about this fascinating nation should read this book.
Beginning with the earliest evidence for human occupation of Wales, Davies brings us up to the end of the 1980s. Each of his ten chapters covers a particular time period, and each chapter title features three place names that represent, and figure into, the theme of that chapter/period. Davies touches on nearly every aspect of Welsh history--the political, the social, and the cultural. If some themes garner less attention than others, that is to be expected in a survey of this kind. One theme, of course, dominates this volume (as it should), and that is the relationship between the Welsh and their much more populous English neighbors to the east. That the Welsh were able to resist English domination for so long is miraculous; despite eventual English hegemony, the Welsh have managed to preserve their language, while over the past century there has been a revival of Welsh culture.
The writing is clear and concise, a testament to Davies' skill as both writer and translator. Davies has included a wealth of maps and graphs to illustrate many of his themes. If I have one complaint about "A History of Wales" it is the complete absence of photographs and other illustrations that would have benefited Davies' narrative immensely. That being said, however, this is a fine introduction to a part of the British Isles that we in the US hear very little about. Four and a half stars.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If I have any pet peeves about the many history books I read, it is a history book where the author wishes to name a plethora of historians with which to argue or agree. Read morePublished 6 months ago by James Hayes
Another excellent resource with prompt shipping. Item as described.Published 13 months ago by Kathleen Bishop
A surprisingly well written history of a fascinating region. Davies cannot, of course, cover the entire history in any depth but what he chose to highlight was, well, well chosen. Read morePublished 13 months ago by J. Boland
About 1970 I began my research into the Tyrrell family history in America and Wales and England. Doing research here in America tweaked my interest in Wales. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Malinda
Easy to read, informative, comprehensive, and more entertaining than you would think considering it is a history book. Read morePublished on August 22, 2014 by Kat