Welsh Identity In The C18th Essay Research

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Welsh Identity In The C18th Essay, Research Paper How accurate is Gwyn A. Williams assessment of Welsh identity in the eighteen century when he states that they were A people who, apart from their language, lacked practically every attribute of a nation except for the perverse and persistent belief that they were one? Certainly, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Wales was facing a crisis of identity. This crisis was a long time in the making. The Norman invasion had given the Welsh a common enemy, breaking down the regional and community loyalties in favor of a national front. However, with the death of Llywelyn II in 1282, the idea of a Welsh nation began to quickly erode. The Glyn Dwr uprising of the fifteenth century and the subsequent rise of the Tudor dynasty

brought back a sense of national pride and identity that lasted throughout the reign of the Stuart kings. With the fall of the Stuart line, Wales lost what little commonality it shared with the centralized government in England. In turn, this plunged Welsh identity into a darkness that would take years of hard work to crawl out of. Understandably, the English polity did little to encourage Welsh nationalism. The Acts of Union from 1536-1545 incorporated England and Wales and made English the official language of the government, dealing a crushing blow to both nationalism and the Welsh language. The 1707 Act of Union with Scotland established Great Britain. This affectively meant that, not only were the Welsh called foriegners in their own land, but the oppressors had stolen the

once noble name of the Isle of the Mighty. 1746 could have marked the end of Wales as a nation, for it was in 1746 that Parliament enacted legislation ruling that the term England would now include Wales as well. Fortunately, some enterprising individuals were already ensuring that Wales would live on. Yet another threat to Welsh identity was the rapid Anglicization that was taking place at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The gentry were becoming less Welsh, instead turning to the fashions, customs, and language of the English. This led to a gradual decline in paternalism as well as patronage to the bardic tradition and other art forms. Once again, this decline had began as far back as the first Acts of Union. As the English language began to creep more and more into the

daily lives of the Welsh, the old tongue was dieing out. This was epecially true in border and market towns. Furthermore, the Church was used as an Anglicising force in many areas, preaching, singing, and sometimes teaching in English. Luckily, Anglicisation had a hard road to travel, sometimes in a quite literal sense, when it came to the lower and middle orders. While the lower orders were more reluctant to learn English, it was the middling sorts that rose to fill the shoes of the gentry by becoming the new intelligentsia and patronising the Welsh Arts. When looking at the facts above, one would tend to belive that Gwyn A. Williams was completely justified in his statement. However, a revolution was beginning in Wales, a revolution whose seeds were planted as early as 1567

with the printing of the first Welsh Bible, but was not cultivated until the early eighteen century. Indeed, it was the period of the mid-eighteenth century all the way through the early nineteenth century that produced the greastest contributions to the Welsh revival. This revival produced a new image of Wales complete with a revamped history and new developments in the language. The result was a cohesive national identity which united the Welsh through a common language, history, culture and, to a lesser extent, religion. Arguably, language is the most important factor in shaping national identity and giving one a sense of belonging. Undoubtedly, language is the most important factor in the creation of a new uniquely Welsh consciousness. After all, one cannot examine any of the