The Industrial Revolution and the Atlantic Economy: Selected Essays

By Brinley Thomas | Go to book overview

9

A CAULDRON OF REBIRTH: THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND THE WELSH LANGUAGE 1

In an article, ‘Wales and the Atlantic Economy’, published in 1959, the present writer argued that the population explosion in Wales in the second half of the nineteenth century was a blessing to the Welsh language. Welsh people who had to leave the countryside did not have to emigrate to England or overseas: they were able to migrate to the rapidly expanding industrial areas of South and North Wales, where they raised large families who were Welsh speaking. The 1891 census recorded nearly 900,000 people speaking Welsh in Wales (excluding Monmouthshire), while 70 per cent of them were living in five counties most affected by industrialization—Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Caernarfonshire. I ventured to conclude as follows:

Instead of bemoaning the rural exodus, the Welsh patriot should sing the praises of industrial development. In that tremendous half century before the First World War, economic growth in Wales was so vigorous that her net loss of people through emigration was a mere four per cent of her bountiful natural increase over that period. Few countries in Europe came anywhere near to that. The unrighteous Mammon in opening up the coalfields at such a pace unwittingly gave the Welsh language a new lease of life and Welsh Nonconformity a glorious high noon.

(Thomas 1959:192)

-208-

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