The Foundation of Modern Wales: Wales 1642-1780

By Geraint H. Jenkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE CIVIL WARS AND THE INTERREGNUM

IN the summer of 1642 an impoverished, downtrodden, and sleepy nation on the outer fringes of Europe was drawn into a civil war which few of its people had sought. Before the 'outbreak of civil strife there was a widespread air of foreboding in Wales: 'the end of the world is not far off',1 cried John Griffith of Cefnamwlch in Caernarfonshire, as his fellow gentry besought King Charles I and his Parliament to settle their differences amicably. But as the misunderstanding and distrust between both parties deepened, hopes of avoiding bloodshed faded. On 6 August 1642 Samuel Wood, steward to Sir John Trevor of Trefalun, declared: 'I see the whole nation is almost every man furiously bent for war and bloodshed and do express themselves very boldly'.2 Had Welshmen at the time known what the future held they would have been horrified. For many old, familiar landmarks were destroyed after 1642: following the bitter strife of civil war, Parliament was purged by the army, the king was executed, the monarchy and the House of Lords were temporarily abolished, and a republican government ruled for eleven years. The mass of the Welsh people, remote from London and preoccupied chiefly with the task of making ends meet, was bewildered to find that political crisis at Westminster had led to civil war and republican rule. But there were also well-informed observers who were mindful of the political and ideological issues at stake and who interpreted them in different ways. James Howell, a fervent royalist, believed that he was living in 'a topsy-turvy world'3 in which the very foundations of the traditional order were being undermined. Conversely, the revolutionary period kindled great expectations in the mind of Morgan Llwyd, the Puritan saint. He, too, believed that 'the pillars of the world'4 were shaking, but he was convinced that these convulsive years heralded a new millennium in the course of which the saints would rule with justice and magnanimity.

Most Welshmen regarded the coming of war with deep apprehension, for the threat to order, stability, and common decency was a very real one.

____________________
1
A. H. Dodd, A History of Caernarvonshire 1284-1900 ( Caerns. Hist. Soc., 1968), p. 106.
2
Anthony Fletcher, The Outbreak of the English Civil War (paperback edn., London, 1985), p. 265.
3
James Howell, Epistolae Ho-Elianae ( 2nd edn., London, 1650), p. 254.
4
Gweithiau, i. 128.

-3-

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The Foundation of Modern Wales: Wales 1642-1780
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The History of Wales i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • A Note on Dating and Punctuation x
  • Contents xi
  • List of Maps xii
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Part I Strife and Upheaval 1642-1660 1
  • Chapter I the Civil Wars and the Interregnum 3
  • Chapter 2 Propagating the Gospel 43
  • Part II the Return to Stability 1660-1730 85
  • Chapter 3 the Social and Economic Structure 87
  • Chapter 4 the Pattern of Politics 132
  • Chapter 5 Religion, Education, and Literacy 173
  • Chapter 6 Cultural and Intellectual Life 213
  • Part III the Age of Improvement 1730-1780 255
  • Chapter 7 Social and Economic Progress 257
  • Chapter 8 Political Conflict and Change 300
  • Chapter 9 the Spirit of Enthusiasm 342
  • Chapter 10 Cultural Revival and Invention 386
  • Bibliography 427
  • Index 465
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