Welsh history

Brief history of Wales abridged

A brief review of the history of Wales, in summary form.

Wales in ancient times

During the last ice age, people hunted reindeer and mammoth in what is now Wales. When the ice age ended around 10,000 BC, new animals appeared in Wales, such as red deer and wild boar. Stone age hunters hunted them both. They also gathered plants for food.

In 4,000 BC farming was introduced to Wales, although people still used stone tools. Around 2,000 BC they learned to use bronze. Then about 600 BC the Celts migrated to Wales, bringing with them iron tools and weapons.

The Celts were a warlike people and built many forts on the hills of Wales. However, they were also skilled craftsmen in iron, bronze, and gold.

In AD 43 the Romans invaded southeastern England. They began the conquest of Wales around AD 50, but it took several decades. In 78 AD the Romans captured Anglesey, the seat of the Celtic priests, the Druids. That effectively ended Celtic resistance.

Afterward, Wales was firmly under Roman rule. The Romans created a network of forts throughout Wales to control the Celtic tribes. Sometimes cities grew out of forts, as soldiers provided a market for the citizens’ goods. The most important Roman city in Wales was Caerwent.

It would seem tiny to us, with only a few thousand inhabitants, but cities were very small in those days. Other Roman cities were Maridunum (Carmarthen) and Segontium (Caernarfon). The Romans also built several villas in Wales.

Christianity arrived in Wales in the third century. We know that two Christians named Julius and Aaron were martyred at Caerleon. However, the persecution of the Christians ceased in the year 313.

However, in the fourth century the Roman Empire fell into decline. The last Roman soldiers left Britain in AD 407. Afterwards, the Roman way of life slowly disappeared. Wales was divided into separate kingdoms.

Wales in the Middle Ages

Meanwhile, the Saxons invaded eastern England. They marched west and by the 7th century AD they had reached the borders of Wales. Centuries of fighting between the Welsh and Saxons followed.

Then, in the 9th century, the Vikings began raiding Wales. However, a man named Rhodri ap Merfyn or Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri the Great) became king of Gwynedd in the northeast. In 855 he also became King of Powys in East Wales. In the year 856 he won a great victory over the Danes. However, the Vikings continued to attack Wales, at intervals, until the end of the 10th century.

When William the Conqueror became King of England in 1066, he did not attempt to conquer Wales. However, he did grant land along the border between England and Wales to powerful Norman lords. These lords sometimes invaded the territory of Wales of their own free will.

During the reign of William II (1087-1100) the Normans continued their attacks on Wales. However, the Welsh bitterly resisted, and most of Wales remained independent. However, in those parts of Wales they controlled the towns created by the English lords.

The most important was Cardiff. To us, these early Welsh towns seem small. They often had only several hundred inhabitants. English lords also founded many monasteries in Wales.

In the middle of the 13th century, one man managed to become ruler of most of Wales. In 1255 Llewellyn became King of Gwynedd. The Welsh kingdoms of Powys, Deheubarth and Glamorgan recognized Llewellyn as their lord.

In 1267 King Henry III of England made the Treaty of Montgomery with Llewellyn. Under the treaty, Llewellyn was made Prince of Wales. However, he agreed to become the English king’s vassal.

However, in 1272 Edward I became King of England. He was determined to rule all of Britain. Since Llewellyn was his vassal, Edward summoned him to pay homage.

Every time he was called, Llewellyn made some excuse. In 1276 Edward declared him a rebel and raised an army that entered Wales. In 1277 Llewellyn was forced to submit and cede some of his territory to the English. However, in 1282 the Welsh rebelled.

Llewellyn was killed fighting the English in December 1282, but his brother Dafyd continued the fight. However, Dafyd was captured in June 1283 and executed in October 1283. The rebellion was crushed.

Edward was now the ruler of Wales. English law was imposed on the Welsh and Edward built a network of castles to control the people. Alongside the castles, Edward created new cities.

In 1294, the Welsh rebelled. However, the rebellion was crushed in 1295. However, in 1301 to try to win the loyalty of the Welsh, Edward made his son, who was also named Edward, Prince of Wales.

In 1348-49 Wales, like the rest of Europe, was devastated by the Black Death, which probably killed a third of the population.

Then in 1400 Owain Glyn Dwr led another rebellion. Between 1401 and 1403 the rebels steadily advanced, capturing Welsh towns and defeating the English in battle. In 1404 Owain captured Aberystwyth and Harlech castles. However, in 1405 and 1406 the English began to regain ground.

The English recaptured Aberystwyth Castle in 1408 and Harlech Castle in 1409. Owain and his followers fled into the mountains. They continued to fight until 1413 when Owain Glyn Dwr disappeared from history.

In the late 15th century, towns and trade flourished in Wales. Much of the countryside also became more prosperous. Then, in 1485, Henry Tudor landed an army at Milford Haven. He marched through Wales to England and after the Battle of Bosworth he became king.

16th-17th centuries

In 1536 a law divided all of Wales into counties. Wales was to send MPs to the English parliament. The law also states that English must be the language used in Welsh courts. The law is known as the Act of Union.

Meanwhile, the 16th century brought religious changes to Wales. In 1517 Martin Luther, a German, began the Reformation. He demanded changes in Christian beliefs and practices. In 1534 Henry VIII broke with the Pope and became head of the church in England and Wales.

In 1536 Henry dissolved the smaller monasteries in Wales. The rest dissolved in 1539. Meanwhile, Protestant ideas spread throughout Wales. However, although Henry became head of the church, he was not willing to allow too many changes. In 1542 a Protestant named Thomas Capper was burned to death in Cardiff.

In 1553, Henry’s daughter Maria became queen. She tried to undo the changes in religion and restore the old Catholic religion. During her reign, three Protestants were burned to death in Wales. However, when Mary died in 1558, her sister Elizabeth became queen. Things changed again. Elizabeth reintroduced Protestantism. In 1588 the Bible was translated into Welsh.

Meanwhile, during the 16th century, Wales gradually grew richer. Most of the people made a living by farming and herding cattle was very important. However, trade and industry continued to grow. Wales increasingly exported wool and woolen cloth. Meanwhile, coal mining flourished. The Welsh iron industry also grew.

In 1642 came the civil war between the king and the parliament. Wales was firmly in the royalist camp (except for the town of Pembroke, which supported parliament throughout the war) and many Welsh soldiers fought in the king’s army.

However, by 1644 the king was losing the war. In September the royalists were defeated at the Battle of Montgomery. In 1645 the Parliamentarian army captured South Wales.

However, North Wales remained loyal to the king, but in 1646 Parliamentarian soldiers entered the area. They captured the royalist fortresses one by one. The last to fall was Harlech, who was captured by Parliamentarian soldiers in March 1647.

In 1648 Parliament decided to dissolve his army. However, many soldiers had not been paid for a long time and realized that they would not be paid the money they were owed if they disbanded. The commander of the soldiers in Pembroke was named Poyer and he rebelled.

Meanwhile, the king made a deal with the Scots, who promised to restore him to his throne. Poyer joined the king, but soldiers loyal to parliament marched into Wales and crushed the rebellion.

Century XVIII

In the early 18th century, Wales continued to prosper and lavish mansions were built. Meanwhile the SPCK founded many charity schools in Wales. A man named Griffith Jones (1683-1761) gave them a tremendous boost. He created circulating schools. They were mobile schools.

Teachers would set up a school in one place for 3-6 months and then move on. The movement helped create widespread literacy in Wales.

Also in the 18th century, Wales experienced a religious revival. In 1735 Welsh Methodists were created by Howel Harris (1714-1773) and Daniel Rowland (1713-1790). At first the Methodists remained members of the Church of England, but also held their own meetings.

However, some Church of England clergymen disliked Methodism. Eventually in 1811 the Methodists began to ordain their own ministers and became a separate church.

In the mid-18th century, Wales was still a very rural society. Welsh towns were very small, even by the standards of the time, and the vast majority of people lived in the countryside. Most of the people lived from agriculture. However, at the end of the 18th century, all that began to change. The industrial revolution transformed everyday life. People flocked to work in the cities.

XIX century

In the 19th century, coal mining and iron and steel in Wales boomed. Other Welsh metal industries, such as copper, zinc and tin plating, prospered in the 19th century. So did the slate quarry. There was also a significant woolen industry in Wales.

The population of Wales grew rapidly despite emigration. In 1801 the population of Wales was less than 600,000. In 1851 it was almost 1.2 million. In 1911 there were more than 2 million. Welsh towns grew very quickly, but by the early 19th century they were dirty and overcrowded. There were cholera outbreaks in Wales in 1832, 1848, 1854 and 1866.

There were also disturbances in the Welsh countryside. There were riots in the years 1842-1844 known as the Rebecca riots. The men dressed up as women and called themselves Rebekah’s Daughters. The target of his rage was the toll gates. (Many roads in Wales were owned by Turnpike Trusts and a toll had to be paid to use them.)

However, later, in the 19th century, things got better. Wages increased and working hours were reduced. The towns became healthier when the sewers were dug. Also, in the 1840s railways were built throughout Wales. They made it so much easier for visitors to get to Wales. Tourism became a major Welsh industry.

Twentieth century

The 1920s and 1930s were years of hardship for Wales. There was massive unemployment at the time. Unemployment had already reached 23% of the Welsh workforce in 1927. In the 1930s it worsened and in some parts of Wales half the workforce was unemployed.

During World War II both Cardiff and Swansea were bombed by the Germans. On the other hand, full employment returned with the Second World War and unemployment remained low throughout the 1950s and 1960s. However, traditional Welsh industries such as coal and iron and steel continued to decline and increasingly more coal mines were closed.

Fortunately, light industries came to Wales. In 1976 the Welsh Development Agency was created to encourage industry to move to Wales. The Welsh tourist industry also grew more and more important.

Other service industries also grew in importance. The population of Wales increased slowly in the 20th century. Much slower than the 19th. Today, the population of Wales is 3 million.

Meanwhile, in 1999 the new Welsh Assembly was opened. In 2011, the people of Wales voted to allow the Welsh Assembly to pass legislation without the permission of Westminster.

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