Short History of Wales

Play Audio | Get the Book |


by Owen M. Edwards


This little book is meant for those who have never read any Welsh history before. It is not taken for granted that the reader knows either Latin or Welsh.

A fuller outline may be read in The Story of Wales, in the "Story of the Nations" series; and a still fuller one in The Welsh People of Rhys and Brynmor Jones. Of fairly small and cheap books in various periods I may mention Rhys' Celtic Britain, Owen Rhoscomyl's Flame Bearers of Welsh History, Henry Owen's Gerald the Welshman, Bradley's Owen Glendower, Newell's Welsh Church, and Rees Protestant Non- conformity in Wales. More elaborate and expensive books are Seebohm's Village Community and Tribal System in Wales, Clark's Medieval Military Architecture, Morris' Welsh Wars of Edward I., Southall's Wales and Her Language. In writing local history, A. N. Palmer's History of Wrexham and companion volumes are models.

If you turn to a library, you will find much information about Wales in Social England, the Dictionary of National Biography, the publications of the Cymmrodorion and other societies. You will find articles of great value and interest over the names of F. H. Haverfield, J. W. Willis-Bund, Egerton Phillimore, the Honourable Mrs Bulkeley Owen (Gwenrhian Gwynedd), Henry Owen, the late David Lewis, T. F. Tout, J. E. Lloyd, D. Lleufer Thomas, W. Llywelyn Williams, J. Arthur Price, J. H. Davies, J. Ballinger, Edward Owen, Hubert Hall, Hugh Williams, R. A. Roberts, A. W. Wade-Evans, E. A. Lewis. These are only a few out of the many who are now working in the rich and unexplored field of Welsh history. I put down the names only of those I had to consult in writing a small book like this.

The sources are mostly in Latin or Welsh. Many volumes of chronicles, charters, and historical poems have been published by the Government, by the Corporation of Cardiff, by J. Gwenogvryn Evans, by H. de Grey Birch, and others. But, so far, we have not had the interesting chronicles and poems translated into English as they ought to be, and published in well edited, not too expensive volumes.



Wales is a row of hills, rising between the Irish Sea on the west and the English plains on the east. If you come from the west along the sea, or if you cross the Severn or the Dee from the east, you will see that Wales is a country all by itself. It rises grandly and proudly. If you are a stranger, you will think of it as "Wales"--a strange country; if you are Welsh, you will think of it as "Cymru"--a land of brothers.

The geologist will tell you how Wales was made; the geographer will tell you what it is like now; the historian will tell you what its people have done and what they are. All three will tell you that it is a very interesting country.

The rocks of Wales are older and harder than the rocks of the plains; and as you travel from the south to the north, the older and harder they become. The highest mountains of Wales, and some of its hills, have crests of the very oldest and hardest rock--granite, porphyry, and basalt; and these rocks are given their form by fire. But the greater part of the country is made of rocks formed by water--still the oldest of their kind. In the north-west, centre, and west--about two-thirds of the whole country,--the rocks are chiefly slate and shale; in the south-east they are chiefly old red sandstone; in the north-east, but chiefly in the south, they are limestone and coal.

Its rocks give Wales its famous scenery--its rugged peaks, its romantic glens, its rushing rivers. They are also its chief wealth-- granite, slate, limestone, coal; and lodes of still more precious metals--iron, lead, silver, and gold--run through them.

The highest mountain in Wales is Snowdon, which is 3,570 feet above the level of the sea. For every 300 feet we go up, the temperature becomes one degree cooler. At about 1,000 feet it becomes too cold for wheat; at about 1,500 it becomes too cold for corn; at about 2,000 it is too cold for cattle; mountain ponies graze still higher; the bleak upper slopes are left to the small and valuable Welsh sheep.

Next Page