The Welsh Language and Its Social Domains, 1801-1911

The Welsh Language and Its Social Domains, 1801-1911

The Welsh Language and Its Social Domains, 1801-1911

The Welsh Language and Its Social Domains, 1801-1911

Synopsis

This volume contains 22 chapters dealing with the status of the Welsh language in a wide range of social domains, including agriculture and industry, education, religion, politics, law and culture.

Excerpt

Earlier volumes in this series have clearly shown that massive socioeconomic change, which included demographic growth, industrialization and urbanization, marked a decisive turning point in the fortunes of the Welsh language in the nineteenth century. This study, the fifth volume in the series ‘A Social History of the Welsh Language’, seeks to shed new light on the distinctive place which Welsh occupied in a variety of social domains, the factors which promoted its welfare and the obstacles which stunted its growth. It is a well-known fact that English was reckoned to be the language of progress in this period, and robust groups of utilitarians, Darwinians, Celtophobes and upwardly-mobile Welsh speakers believed that Welsh and its sister Celtic languages were a grave, even absurd, social handicap. Those who were convinced that Welsh had no place in a swiftly modernizing society used their best endeavours to cordon it off into homespun, benign and ‘unpolitical’ domains such as the home, the rural workplace, the chapel and the local eisteddfod. However, the content of this volume presents a different picture. It reveals that Welsh not only prospered in its traditional domains but also fared well in contested spheres like politics, law, education and science. With the wisdom of hindsight, there clearly existed enormous potential for Welsh to become, both numerically and socially, a powerful influence in the life of the nation. That this did not fully materialize is partly addressed here and will figure prominently in our forthcoming volume on the fate of the language in the twentieth century.

Part of the charm of the nineteenth century lies in the fact that so much more Welsh-language material – in manuscript and print – is available to the social historian, and contributors to this volume have been encouraged to plunder it ruthlessly. I am grateful to all of them for their co-operation and forbearance in responding to my determination to set the highest standards of scholarship and accuracy. Sadly, two scholars of genuine distinction Professor Emeritus Brinley Thomas and Professor R. Tudur Jones – passed away before the completion of this volume. in their respective fields they greatly enriched our understanding of our cultural heritage and earned the profound respect of their peers. the recent death of Professor Emeritus J. E.

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