Hope and Heartbreak: A Social History of Wales and the Welsh, 1776-1871

Hope and Heartbreak: A Social History of Wales and the Welsh, 1776-1871

Hope and Heartbreak: A Social History of Wales and the Welsh, 1776-1871

Hope and Heartbreak: A Social History of Wales and the Welsh, 1776-1871

Synopsis

Hope and Heartbreak is the first in a two-volume social history of modern Wales which will revise 'general' histories of Wales through an engagement with the particularity of everyday life.

Excerpt

Two world-famous events, in both of which the Welsh had a significant role, mark the chronological boundaries of the period covered by this book. In 1776, sixteen, perhaps eighteen, Welshmen and men of Welsh descent, were amongst the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence. The Declaration commences with the resounding statement, ‘all men are created equal, … they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’. Characteristically, some would say, the Welsh placed emphasis on the Creator’s role. Uncharacteristically, more would say, it was they who placed happiness in the declaration. The second event is the most famous meeting in nineteenth-century history. On 10 November 1871, in Ujiji, Henry Morton Stanley, the illegitimate son of John Rowlands and Elizabeth Parry of Denbigh, who had spent his formative years in St Asaph workhouse, elbowed his way through a group of ‘primitive’ tribesmen. In the clearing ahead of him was a 71-year-old Scotsman. Stanley later recalled his momentous moment of destiny:

My heart beats fast, but I must not let my face betray my emotions, lest it shall
detract from the dignity of a white man appearing under such extraordinary
circumstances. So I did that which I thought was most dignified. I pushed back
the crowds, and, passing from the rear, walked down a living avenue of people,
until I came … to … the white man with the grey beard. I would have run to
him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob – would have embraced
him, only he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me.

Stanley stepped forward, took off his hat, and uttered the most famous words of the nineteenth century. A stark and simple questioning declaration, which still resounds across history: ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume.’

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