The Foundation of Modern Wales: Wales 1642-1780

By Geraint H. Jenkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
CULTURAL REVIVAL AND INVENTION

ONE of the most striking features of this period was the emergence of men and women who, blessed with a multitude of overlapping talents, were determined to enrich the cultural life of Wales. Changing cultural tastes were not only the result of wider educational opportunities but were also closely related to the contours of social and economic change. Those who concentrated their intellect and energy in bolstering Welsh culture were chiefly drawn from the increasingly affluent middling sorts, comprising civil servants, clergymen and ministers, prosperous farmers, skilled craftsmen, and artisans. As the dominant ruling landed classes severed themselves from native Welsh culture, these newer men became the most conspicuous and influential patrons and animators in the world of Welsh letters. It was a source of considerable vexation to them that the gentry were no longer sensitive to the plight of the Welsh language and were only too willing to lose the valuable culture bequeathed to them by their ancestors. But since they were not dependent on the financial support or social approval of the landed classes, they were able to stake a claim to determine the nature and quality of Welsh culture. Deeply conscious of their obligations to their cultural inheritance, they sought to create a framework which would enable popular societies and printing-presses to revive celebrated traditions and canvass new ideas. In so doing, they gave Welsh culture a new lease of life.

A number of social and economic changes opened the way for middling sorts of differing social backgrounds to play a larger and more significant role in cultural matters. The growth of an energetic urban middle class in Welsh towns released new talents. Welsh Dissenting academies produced a stream of brilliant alumni. Moreover, as the century advanced, the reading public expanded swiftly, with the result that more and more people were reading a wide range of books, discovering new ideas, and voicing their opinions. In the absence of capital resources, rich endowments, and representative institutions, men of letters were compulsively driven to rediscover their cultural inheritance, embrace it with fierce pride and enrich it by creating new myths and traditions. Where customs were decaying, new ones were either deliberately invented or grafted on to the old and presented as indigenous, original, and attractive Welsh characteristics. As a result, Welsh scholars not only recovered genuine literary treasures from the past but also created new heroes and cults, ceremonies and

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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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