|Language||Welsh, English (official)|
|Monarch||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Area||8,022 sq mi|
|GDP 2006||$85.4 billion|
|GDP per capita||$30,546|
Wales is a principality which is a part of the United Kingdom. It occupies the peninsula of land between the Bristol Channel and the River Dee, on the west side of southern Great Britain. Anglesey, Holy Island, and the bardic island of Bardsey are also part of Wales.
Althouh politically controlled by England for 800 years, throughout the centuries, a sense of national identity in Wales has manifested itself in a variety of ways: aspirations to statehood, a unique language, cultural distinctiveness, religious affiliation, sporting achievement, and, most recently, political devolution.
Much of Wales is mountainous; the Cambrian Mountains run the length of the country, from Snowdonia in the north. Several geological periods are named after the ancient Welsh tribes that lived in regions where strata characteristic of the period are to be found; the Ordovician (Ordovices), the Silurian (Silures), and the Cambrian period is named for Cambria, the Latin for Wales.
The largest city in Wales is Cardiff, which was declared to be the capital city in 1955, against competition from Swansea. Other important locales include the ports of Holyhead and Milford Haven; the mining and industrial centres of Llanelli, Neath, Pontypridd, Rhondda, Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham; the ecclesiastical cities of St. Asaph and St. Davids; the resorts of Pwllheli, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl and Prestatyn; the university towns of Bangor and Aberystwyth; and the villages of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (the longest place name in Britain) and Llanddewi Brefi.
see Welsh language
English is universally spoken in Wales - however, the ancestral Celtic language of Welsh is still spoken as a first or second language by approximately a quarter of the population (In 2001, Approximately 600,000 people claimed some knowledge of Welsh). The long-term decline in Welsh-speakers has stabilised since the early 1990s owing to the introduction of compulsory Welsh language classes in schools.
The national emblems are the leek and the daffodil. The Welsh national day is March 1, Saint David's day. The Welsh flag has a picture of a dragon, usually called Idris. The Welsh flag forms no part of the Union Flag as at the time the flag was first devised Wales was considered as part of the Kingdom of England.
Wales emerged as a nation from the collapse of Romano-British Britannia following the invasions of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from the fifth century AD onwards. What is now known as Wales was for a time known as 'North Wales', while Devon and Cornwall (in SW England) were 'West Wales' until their conquest. The Mercian king Offa (Mercia equates roughly to the English Midlands) created an substantial earthwork, Offa's Dyke running between the Irish Sea and the Severn estuary in the later eighth century to separate his kingdom from Welsh lands. The dyke broadly marks the Anglo-Welsh boundary to this day.
The Norman Conquest of England following 1066 gave rise to Norman attempts to occupy Wales; by the thirteenth century much of eastern and southern Wales were under Norman control in autonomous 'Marcher Lordships' owing loyalty to the English crown. What was left of independent Wales was not a unitary nation, but comprised a number of separate, often warring, principalities, and only late on, under English pressure, did these unite to acknowledge one 'Prince of Wales'. These princes were provided by the most powerful of the Welsh states, Gwynedd, in the mountainous NW of the country. Most notable was Llewelyn the Great (1173-1240; who unified the country, and gave it a code of laws).
His grandson, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, was unable to resist a powerful invasion mounted by the English king Edward I, and his death in battle in 1282 and the later execution of his brother Daffyd (executed for treason due to his betrayal of the English king, with whom he had previously been allied) marked the extinction of independent Wales.
A number of huge fortifications were built by Edward to pacify the country, notably that of Caernafon Castle, and maintained by his successors. These castles wer known as the Iron Ring.
A major revolt against English rule was mounted in the early fifteenth century led by Owain Glyndwr, a member of the prosperous Welsh gentry who became embittered against the local English magnates for reasons which are uncertain, but probably owe as much to personal disputes as national sentiment. Glyndwr's rebellion achieved astonishing success, for a while. Beginning on Good Friday 1401, the rebels came to control much of the countryside and many Welsh towns, even advancing to Worcester in England. Glyndwr, who had been proclaimed Prince of Wales, held two parliaments at Machynlleth in mid Wales, and allied himself with the Duke of Northumberland and the Earl of Mortimer in a plan to dismember the English kingdom once Henry IV had been conclusively defeated. He made an alliance with France, and created two (short-lived) universities, one each in north and South Wales. However, by 1408 the tide had turned. His Northumbrian allies had been defeated and English forces retook many Welsh towns. The rebels resorted to guerilla warfare but by 1410 Glyndwr was a fugitive and he disappears from history, his fate a mystery.
Much as Owain Glyndwr emerged from the ranks of the Welsh gentry, so too did Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who in 1485, as a somewhat tendentious claimant to the throne of England through the Lancastrian line, led an army of disaffected English magnates to victory over the Yorkist king Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Henry became King Henry VII and the progenitor of the Tudor dynasty, the first Welsh king of England. Henry's son, Henry VIII, completed the absorption of Wales into England in 1536, when the remaining parts of Wales were formally annexed to England and 'shired' - that is, divided into counties (shires) with sheriffs and lords lieutenant, rather than being ruled as marcher lordships.
“Ragged schools” were schools for children in rags, that is for poor and destitute children. They were established in the newly industrialized towns of Wales in the mid-Victorian period, drawing widespread support from all levels of society and from all religious denominations. Promoters of ragged schools combined evangelical and charitable motives in an effort to rescue children from lives of immorality and crime, and, despite a lack of qualified teachers, they did provide an education for children denied opportunities because of poverty. The schools provided instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, and often some industrial training, and the movement achieved remarkable results before declining with the gradual introduction of compulsory free elementary schooling from 1870 onward.
Soccer became enormously popular in northeast Wales during 1870-90, a development that resembled the growth of the sport in England and reflected aspects of Welsh national identity. During this period, soccer transformed from an informal game enjoyed mostly by schoolchildren into a regulated, professional, and spectator-friendly sport. The growing popularity and interclass participation was seen as an agent of social cohesion and Victorian values of health, though frequent outbreaks of fighting during matches was frowned on by some religious groups. Soccer maintained its popularity in northeast Wales, but industrial decline generally meant that local teams could not as easily draw the same crowds and attract talented players as those in the English Midlands. Soccer was easily the most popular sport in Wales throughout the whole of the twentieth century.
Wales is known for the strength of Nonconformist denominations, especially the Methodists. Nonconformist social and political activism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was based more on moral and economic concerns than theological principles. Public controversy over publication of R. J. Campbell's The New Theology in 1907 sparked the development of a theology-based activism that strengthened Nonconformist ties with the radical labor movement and Socialism. It was similar to the Social Gospel in the United States, but more radical and more inclined toward socialism as promoted by the Labour Party.
The major Nonconformist groups were the Baptists, Congregationalists, and three varieties of Methodists (the Calvinistic, Primitive, and Wesleyan). Each combined communal (largely involuntary involvement) and associational (voluntary involvement) aspects among their members and adherents. The membership declined during the early 20th century. To a large degree that decline is attributable to each church body becoming more associational, bureaucratic, and denominational. Connections to local communities broke down and promoted secularization although revivalism occurred to roll back the secularization process on occasion.
Revival of 1904-5
See also: Welsh Revival of 1904-1905
From 1904 to 1905 Wales experienced a religious revival with a strong tone of what became Pentecostalism. It was most famously associated with Evan Roberts (1878-1951), but the movement was broad based with many leaders. Begun as an effort to kindle nondenominational, nonsectarian spirituality, the Welsh revival of 1904-05 coincided with the rise of the labor movement, socialism, and a general disaffection with religion among the working class and youths. While Roberts heavily emphasized the need for individual prayer in his revival, he also engaged in considerable preaching and, like other evangelists, acted spontaneously. Roberts's mental health was a topic of discussion among his followers and detractors at the time of the revival, a debate that has continued ever since. Evidence indicates he was not particularly stable prior to the revival, and that during the revival he claimed to possess various spiritual and supernatural powers. Not merely a Welsh phenomenon, the movement also spread to other countries. The revival produced some lasting effects including the establishment of Pentecostalism in Wales. Revivalists at firct condemned all activities not related to religion, prayer, and the service of God, it temporarily crippled the growing sport of rugby, itself an increasingly powerful element of Welsh identity. Within months, however, extremist views waned and innocuous pastimes and sport returned to Welsh daily life. International success for Wales in rugby matches in 1905 restored the sport's earlier standing and reinforced its place in the self-image of modern Wales.
The revival lasted less than a year, but in that period 100,000 converts were made. The revival spread from south Wales to north Wales, then to Britain, and eventually to Los Angeles, California, where Pentecostalism flourished.
Prince of Wales
Charles, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, is the current Prince of Wales, a title normally bestowed on the first-born son of the sovereign but implying no particular monarchical role in the Principality.
Even today in modern Wales, vestiges of anti-English sentiment remain strong in some parts; the Welsh Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru typically returns several members to the British Parliament, and with the unaffiliated Welsh terrorist group the Meibion Glyndwr, ("the Sons of Glendower") conducting a sporadic campaign of arson against English-owned holiday homes in recent years.
|Monarch||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Prime Minister||David Cameron MP|
|Secretary of State||Cheryl Gillan MP|
|First Minister||Carwyn Jones AM|
Although constitutionally the United Kingdom is a unitary state with one sovereign, parliament and government - there has been moves to give power to national legislature in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this has taken the form of devolution. Power for certain areas of government like education, health and the environment are fully the responsibility of their national governments. However, central government maintains the right to overturn any decision by a national assembly, as such the Parliament of the United Kingdom remains sovereign in the United Kingdom as a whole.
A National Assembly for Wales as established under the Government of Wales Act of 1998. The assembly consists of 60 Assembly Members or AMs. The Welsh Assembly Government is the executive arm who have been delegated much of the powers of the Assembly.
Coal mining in South Wales has undergone a recent resurgence due to the discovery of new energy resources, particularly in the Crumlin area.
Soccer enjoys major popularity, with rugby union being particularly popular in South Wales. In addition, as is common with many universities, both Cardiff and Aberystwyth Universities have their own American Football teams (the Cardiff Cobras and the Tarannau Aberystwyth), and there are other American Football teams in Wales (indeed there are many other American Football teams in the whole of the UK). Ice hockey is also extremely popular; major teams include the Cardiff Devils.
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- The the thesis advanced by Owen Morgan Edwards c. 1900 stressed geographical determinism, and was similar to contemporary findings in the United States by Frederick Jackson Turner. TheEdwards model was augmented and revised by subsequent generations of historians, most notably by John Lloyd and William Stubbs in their work on preconquest Wales, which considered questions of race and political organization. In later decades, Edward A. Lewis and William Rees followed with similar approaches to modern Welsh social and economic history, while A. H. Dodd and Glanmor Williams focused on Welsh industrialization.
- Owen, Trefor. Customs and Traditions of Wales (1991) 108pp
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- Stephens, Meic, ed. The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales. (1986). 682 pp.
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