‘There is no single definition of Welshness, either in the past or in the present’ (Gareth Elwyn Jones, Block 1). Discuss the way historians have used their sources to explore the nature of Welsh identity over time. Answer
What it means to be Welsh is a topic which many historians have considered in the past, and continue to try and define. Historians are our guides through history, making sense of the past by analysing any remaining evidence of that particular time period. How historians explore Welshness through the use of historical sources is important in showing how Welsh identity has been shaped over recorded history, and how it continues to develop to present day. It can be difficult to determine what exactly constitutes Welshness, and to isolate the concepts which make one group feel different and independent from their fellow human beings. At a recent event the inhabitants of Wales were questioned about Welsh identity and replied ‘You are Welsh because you feel Welsh’ (Bone, 2011, online). A shared sense of belonging and togetherness is therefore a crucial part of nationhood. There are individual issues which combine to give this feeling of Welshness. Wales has never had its own government, so this sense of nationality derives from other sources, such as language, culture, community spirit and a shared common history (Block 1, p.10). The Welsh language has always been considered a key historical definer of Welshness. Yet social changes have caused the Welsh language to retreat, almost disappear in some areas. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the redistribution of population and migration could initially be given as the cause of the language demise. Pastoral and arable farming was not so labour intensive due to technical advances, and people moved because there was no longer work for them in the countryside. South Wales was becoming more industrialized and English migrants moved into the area for employment. Yet John...
Bibliography: Barlow, H. (ed.) (2009) Small Country, Big History: Themes in the History of Wales – The Reader, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Bone, E. (2011) ‘What English nationalism can learn from Welsh identity’, http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news, accessed 05 January 2012.
Jones, G.E. (2009) Block 1, ‘Wales and history’ in A182 Study Guide, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Jones, G.E. (2009) Unit 2, ‘Popular culture in post- war Wales’ in A182 Study Guide, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Williams, C. (2009) Unit 3, ‘Wales’s ‘special revolutionary enterprise’: the Rebecca riots’ in A182 Study Guide, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
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