Meet Our Historians; Here Are the History Research Wales Experts Revealing in Their Own Words Just What They're about and Who Their Personal Heroes and Villains Are

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 19, 2011 | Go to article overview

Meet Our Historians; Here Are the History Research Wales Experts Revealing in Their Own Words Just What They're about and Who Their Personal Heroes and Villains Are


Katharine Olson I lecture in medieval and early modern history at Bangor University, and am particularly interested in the religious, social, cultural, and intellectual history of Wales and the Marches. My personal villains perhaps are easiest to identify - the list is filled with bad politicians, dictators and despots, from George Bush to Nero to Stalin and Hitler. As an historian, my list of villains from the medieval and early modern periods is too long to go into, however! My personal heroes are harder to quantify, but amongst my modern ones are authors who have inspired me over the years, including Laura Ingalls Wilder, an American novelist who brought 19th-century America vividly to life in collaboration with her daughter. I'd also include JE Lloyd, whose history books and biographies set the standard for modern Welsh history writing about medieval Wales. Even though his History of Wales was written 100 years ago this year, it''s still a standard text today.

Paul O'Leary I am senior lecturer in Welsh history at Aberystwyth University. My publications include books on the Irish in Wales and articles on various other aspects of 19th and 20th-century history. My research on Irish migration is a long-standing interest that stems in part from the fact that both sides of my family can trace their origins to County Cork. The arrival of my paternal grandfather in Wales in the 1890s escaping rural hardship was, in my view, a pretty heroic instance of the migration undertaken more generally by millions of others during that unsettled century. In general, however, I don't believe that we need heroes to venerate. Only by developing a critical and questioning attitude to the past can we learn to deal with its complexities. That goes for heroes and villains, too.

Iwan Morus I am a reader in history at Aberystwyth University. I was born and brought up in the town but only came back to join the department of history & Welsh history as a lecturer a few years ago in 2005. I started my academic studies as a physicist but soon drifted into the history of science. My research area is the Victorian period and I''ve published widely on the cultural history of Victorian science. My latest book, Shocking Bodies, has just appeared. My PhD thesis was on William Robert Grove, who has fascinated me ever since. One of the reasons I find him so interesting is because it shows just how important a role science played in 19th-century Welsh culture.

Martin Johnes I teach history at Swansea University. I am the author of A History of Sport in Wales (2005) and my new book Wales since 1939 will be published at the end of the year. As a cynical historian I always see both the negatives and positives in people's careers and I thus struggle with than the idea of having my own heroes. However, as a teenager I was much inspired by the lyrics of rock singer Fish. Far more recently I was rather starstruck when I briefly met Lee Trundle. As a Swansea City season ticket holder I probably should not admit it but I also have a soft spot for Fred Keenor, Cardiff City's captain when they won the FA Cup in 1927. He was the subject of the first article I ever published and there is a photograph of that match in my toilet.

Chris Williams I am professor of Welsh history at Swansea University. The work I have done on Lord Tredegar is part of a bigger project on the history of Newport and as one of many new entries on Welsh subjects appearing in a special supplement to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography later this year. Although, like The Stranglers, I am inclined to believe that there are "no more heroes any more", I have great admiration for the Newport Chartist John Frost (1784-1877) and the Labour leader and Merthyr Boroughs MP Keir Hardie (1856-1915). Both of them sacrificed a great deal by sticking to their principles and seeking a better deal for ordinary people. Another fascinating character, usually cast as a villain (a little unfairly), is the Abertillery and Garw valley miners' leader (who became a coal owner) Frank Hodges (1887-1947). …

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