Archaeologia Cambrensis review

Archaeologia Cambrensis review

165 (2016), 283–284

Review by Prys Morgan, Emeritus Professor of History, Swansea University. He is the author of Iolo Morganwg (1975), The Eighteenth Century Renaissance (1981) and A Bible for Wales (1988). Since 2006, he is the president of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion as well as a member of Cadw and the Welsh Arts Council.

Dates are part of the historian’s stock-in-trade, so I have always enjoyed this kind of book. It is annalistic, but it is also divided into chapters, such as ‘Celtic Britain and the Roman Empire (AD 30–AD 405)’ or ‘Wales since Devolution’. In the early chapters great swathes of time are covered by a single entry of a few lines, while in those covering recent centuries each year will have an event of political or cultural significance.

The annals open with a chapter on the Palaeolithic era, and end in 2013–14 with talk of Gareth Bale and Ryan Giggs, the fire at the National Library in Aberystwyth, and the threat of a campaign of civil disobedience by Cymdeithas yr Iaith (the Welsh Language Society). There are several pages of endnotes offering additional factual information, a biographical list mentioning people such as Hengist and Horsa, a bibliography, and finally, a list of Welsh history websites.

The book has several unusual features: the author has been educated in Brittany and so is able to make cross-references to Brittany here and there, and perhaps the most unusual feature in an annalistic book, it has short poetic quotations, translated into English from Welsh poetry such as the Gododdin and the work of Dafydd ap Gwilym. In the opening, prehistoric, chapters there is room to mention the theories of specialists such as Brian Sykes, Stephen Oppenheimer, Colin Renfrew, Mario Alinei, Barry Cunliffe and John Koch, and others, but this approach could not be sustained in the crowded annals of recent centuries.

The author himself was brought up overseas and one of the best features of this book is its coverage of Welsh emigrants, people from Wales, for example, being prime ministers of places as far apart as Newfoundland and Queensland. I think that the book is likely to prove popular, and will go into revised editions… As I read I learned with great enjoyment a vast amount of interesting, and often amazing, facts collected and sorted by the exemplary industry of the author.