The Foundation of Modern Wales: Wales 1642-1780

By Geraint H. Jenkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2 PROPAGATING THE GOSPEL

THROUGHOUT the early Stuart period, Wales's image among Puritans had been distinctly unflattering: it was seen as one of the dark corners of the land, a heathenish country riddled with the remnants of popery and paganism, and shot through with ignorance and profanity. The scandalous lack of preaching and the paucity of educational facilities meant that there were many hungry sheep unfed by the Word. In remote rural areas, where slender maintenances, pluralism, and non-residence sullied the image and effectiveness of the established church, a large proportion of society was still ignorant of basic Christian dogmas. Poor people may rarely have darkened the door of their parish church, save perhaps at Easter. Peasant peoples remained strongly wedded to superstitions and magical practices, and cunning men were often held in higher esteem than clergymen. During the reign of James I the Welsh had been described in Parliament as 'an idolatrous nation and worshippers of Devils'.1 Sir Benjamin Rudyerd had declared in 1628 that Wales was 'scarce in Christendom'.2

Ever since the reign of Elizabeth the backward nature of the Welsh economy had restricted the growth of Puritanism. In England, Puritanism drew much of its strength from serious-minded middling sorts in urban communities and from university-trained clerics. But in Wales, towns were small and impoverished, the middle class was miniscule, and penurious clergymen were ill-equipped to puritanize their flocks. Communications were difficult, news and ideas travelled slowly, and there were no national institutions or facilities to sponsor and nourish radical religious movements. As a result, Puritanism made progress only in those counties linked by trade to English towns and ports. It spread slowly along the trade routes leading from Bristol to Monmouthshire and Glamorgan, and from Chester to Denbighshire. It also took root among the flourishing merchant communities in Pembrokeshire. But the apparent docility, somnolence, and indifference of the Welsh still endured, thus inducing London merchants, many of them Welshmen or of Welsh descent, to enter the mission field by financing philanthropic schemes to help the poor and needy, and by publishing Bibles and popular devotional books in Welsh.

____________________
1
J. Gwynn Williams, "Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Flintshire" Flintshire Hist. Soc. Journal 26-7 ( 1975-6), p. 22.
2
C. Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England (paperback edn., London, 1966), p. 58.

-43-

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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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