A History of Wales: From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)


A History of Wales: From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest was published in 1911 as the first survey of the history of early Wales ever compiled. It provides a concise, easily read and understood odyssey through many ages of Welsh history. Although factual, Lloyd’s History does not diminish in any way the dark brooding texture of the culture that comes from its mist-enshrouded myths and legends. Consequently, this work is well able to inform the intellect of the historian on a search for verifiable ...
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A History of Wales: From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest was published in 1911 as the first survey of the history of early Wales ever compiled. It provides a concise, easily read and understood odyssey through many ages of Welsh history. Although factual, Lloyd’s History does not diminish in any way the dark brooding texture of the culture that comes from its mist-enshrouded myths and legends. Consequently, this work is well able to inform the intellect of the historian on a search for verifiable truth and fact and still stimulate the imagination.<%END%>

About the Author:
<%AUTHORBIO%>Sir John Edward Lloyd was born of Welsh parents in Liverpool, England, in 1861. He began his academic career by attending the University of Wales at Aberysthwyth, and he continued his studies at Lincoln College, Oxford. He was the first Professor of History at the University of Wales Bangor where he gained recognition for the quality of his scholarship in Medieval Welsh history.<%END%>

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Wales, the "land of song," has a unique language and a complex history. The Romans tried and failed to conquer Wales; centuries later, the Normans who took England in 1066 tried - and had to persist for more than two hundred years before they finally succeeded. When King Edward I of England at last vanquished Llywelyn and achieved his goal of ruling Wales, he was able to control it only by constructing a series of costly castles, almost bankrupting his government in the process. What was it about the land and people of Wales that made it so difficult for a wealthier, more centralized, more organized, and better-equipped power to subdue and hold them - and what made it possible for Edward to prevail at last in 1282?

A History of Wales: From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest , is actually volume II of Lloyd's work, A History of Wales: From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest , first published in 1911. This work covers the centuries from the Norman invasion to the point at which Wales came under English rule following the death of David ap Llywelyn in 1282. The story told in this volume is a fascinating and detailed account of those years of conflict during which a geographically and politically fragmented Wales fought to preserve its independence and then to maintain its very identity. During those centuries, changes in the social structure, religion, and economic base of Wales strengthened the Welsh desire for independence. At the same time, paradoxically, those very changes may have enabled the English to achieve what the Romans had been unable to accomplish: the conquest of Wales.

A well-written historical account should be as enthralling as an adventure recounted by the campfire and should present a good story of the people, geography, weather, and events that shape a nation. Lloyd's work does all that and more. Even readers with only a casual interest in the history of Wales, perhaps intrigued by reading or watching a work of fiction such as the popular Brother Cadfael books and television dramas, will quickly find themselves caught up by the story and carried along by the flow of Lloyd's enjoyable and easy-to-read narrative style.

For many years, J.E. Lloyd's A History of Wales: From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest was the standard history for early Wales; the authoritative source for information about Wales before the year 1282. Almost a hundred years after its first publication, it remains an important resource for scholars and historians and is used as a reference work by researchers around the world. First published in 1911, Lloyd's monumental work was the first serious attempt to create a compilation of the early history of Wales. Its importance to Wales and to the study of Welsh history cannot be overstated. Working from manuscript sources, many of them incomplete and most written in Latin or Welsh, Lloyd set out to sort and sift through the writings for genuine, verifiable information. His goal was to set down the truth in as objective a manner as possible, his focus was on facts, but his writing is anything but dry - his History of Wales tells a captivating, compelling story.

John Edward Lloyd, born in England in 1861, was Welsh by parentage. He began his academic career by attending the University of Wales at Aberysthwyth, which opened in 1872. After studying at Lincoln College, Oxford, he returned to Aberysthwyth and became a lecturer of Welsh history at the University, gaining recognition for the quality of his research and publications in Medieval Welsh history. Later, he became the first Professor of History at the University College of North Wales, Bangor (1895-1930). He was the first Chairman of the Board of Celtic Studies and the editor of its Bulletin ; he also served as editor of the first edition of the Dictionary of Welsh Biography . R.T. Jenkins, the first Professor of Welsh History at the University of Wales, Bangor (1930-1948), and a later editor of the Dictionary of Welsh Biography (1941-70), made the statement that Lloyd had "created Welsh history." In 1934, Lloyd was knighted in recognition of his contribution to Welsh scholarship.

Whether or not it is true that J.E Lloyd, in the words of R.T. Jenkins, "created Welsh history," in writing A History of Wales: From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquests he certainly provided the Welsh with both a coherent history and a way to study history. The monumental work was an authoritative source and a basis for the work of future scholars; the methods of painstaking and critical analysis employed by Lloyd set the standards for Welsh historiography.

The study of written history and of the process of writing history is becoming steadily more complex as scholars delve deeper into the study of the methods and approaches of historians. There are trends and fashions in the study and writing of history, as there are in everything else, but historiography demands a critical approach - it is essential to consider the source, even when that means looking into the mirror. In order to understand history as written by any individual author, it is important to know something of the author himself - not only his intellectual and cultural environment and influences, but also, if possible, his ambitions and motivations. Today's historiographers must look analytically at the works and the historians who are their subjects, and ask 'How good were their sources, what were their assumptions, and why?" as well as "What points were they trying to make, what agendas were they attempting to follow?"

Lloyd's impact on the study and writing of Welsh history is both vast and profound. In a real sense, he created Welsh history as an academic discipline and set the standards for the critical examination of sources. The scope of his scholarship and influence is a subject of great interest to current students of both history and historiography. This is perhaps best reflected by the title of a current project being developed by the Board of Celtic Studies of the University of Wales at Bangor: an in-depth examination of "J.E. Lloyd and the development of Welsh historiography."

Since Lloyd's History was first published in 1911, many scholarly and popular works by more recent historians have followed the path established by Lloyd's efforts. Inevitably, criticisms have flared and faded along with the trends in the writing of history. Nonetheless, even today his History remains an authoritative source and the basis for other scholars' research. Lloyd's dedication to research and accurate reporting, together with his enjoyable writing style, are still an extremely appealing combination. From the historian's and scientist's perspective, perhaps the greatest value derives from the huge scope of this authoritative work together with Lloyd's own, very realistic assessment of the function and usefulness of any historical work. No author can ever claim that his work, however brilliant and however significant, is the final word on the subject. There is no doubt that Lloyd understood and accepted this. In his own words, from the author's preface to the first edition: "In a field where so much is matter of conjecture, it has not been possible altogether to avoid speculation and hypothesis, but I can honestly say that I have not written in support of any special theory or to urge any preconceived opinion upon the reader. My purpose has been to map out, in this difficult region of study, what is already known and established, and thus to define more clearly the limits of that "terra incognita" which still awaits discovery."

The years during which Lloyd was studying, then teaching, doing research, and writing the History were also the years during which a strong nationalist movement was developing in Wales. Scholars were an essential part of this movement. Just as Lloyd's work was providing new depth and legitimacy to the study of Welsh history, the work of John Morris-Jones (1864-1929), Professor of Welsh at Bangor University, was providing the same depth and legitimacy to the study of Welsh language and literature. And just as Lloyd's efforts resulted in the publication in 1911 of a monumental work that would stand as a lasting contribution to the history and national identity of Wales and to the way in which history was studied, Morris-Jones' scientific approach resulted in the publication in 1913 of a similarly seminal work on Welsh language and literature.

The major influences on J.E. Lloyd's life were Wales itself, its people and language and politics, and the steady growth of the Welsh national revival. Lloyd was a founding member of the Cymru Fydd (Young Wales) movement in 1886, together with Owen Edwards and others. The objective of this movement was to gain self-government for Wales. Some individuals and groups went further, seeking complete independence for Wales and official status for the Welsh language, but all were agreed on the importance of developing a system of education. This in itself was nothing new - higher education in Wales had been the dream of many Welshmen over many centuries - but in the late nineteenth century, the dream was becoming a reality.

The University College of Wales at Aberystwyth was founded in 1872 and was maintained for ten years by support from the people of Wales. With eventual assistance from the government, two additional colleges were created: The University College of South Wales at Cardiff in 1883 and the University College of North Wales at Bangor in 1884. The University of Wales, consisting of these three colleges, was established by royal charter in 1893. History was taught at Bangor from the University's founding in 1884. Two more royal charters established the National Library and the National Museum in 1907.

Thus, the context of Lloyd's History of Wales: From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest is one of Welsh national revival. Lloyd's achievements and those of other scholars of the period reflected the new possibilities provided by a system of Welsh higher education. They also represented a new beginning in Welsh literature, and contributed immensely to the development of a strong sense of Welsh national identity. The new surge in Welsh scholarship had begun in 1900 when John Rhys and Brynmor Jones published The Welsh People , and in 1902 and 1906 when Owen Edwards published Wales and A Short History of Wales . When these works were followed in 1911 by Lloyd's History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest , and, two years later, by A Welsh Grammar , Historical and Comparative by John Morris-Jones, Wales had, at last, the solid foundations for a national identity: a separate history and culture, scholarship, the beginnings of a Welsh historiography, and a separate language.

Lloyd's observations of Welsh language use and grammar led him to postulate a connection between the early Welsh, the Irish, and the early peoples of Europe. He believed that the earliest Welsh people and language were not, in fact, Celtic, but predated the arrival of the Celts; he suggested that the earliest Welsh may have had an Iberian origin.

It appears that he was correct. Recent genetic research at University College, London, has established that the Welsh, genetically speaking, have little in common with "Celts," but everything in common with the Basques who live on the French-Spanish border. The study revealed that a particular Y chromosome, common in Ireland and Wales, and especially common in north-west Wales, the more rural and traditionally more isolated part of the country, is also common in the Basque population though not at all common in England or indeed in the rest of Europe. This makes it probable that the early Welsh, like the Basques, came from the earliest (Paleolithic) inhabitants of Europe. It seems likely that these pre-Celtic people were the first modern inhabitants of Britain. These "first Britons" owe their genetic survival to the fact that Wales was relatively unaffected by the large-scale Anglo-Saxon invasion that devastated the population of England.

The notion of the existence, let alone the development, of a "national character" was out of fashion for some time, but is enjoying a mild resurgence now that some theories based primarily on linguistics and anthropology are being given some support and legitimacy by the results of genetic studies. The Welsh border does seem to have functioned as a sort of "genetic barrier", blocking the advance and influence of the Anglo-Saxons; that said, there is still no clear answer to the question of whether genetics may have played a more important role than, say, geography and climate in the development of the Welsh national character.

Certainly by Lloyd's time, something had changed in the Welsh body politic. The new nationalism was bringing the Welsh together in a new way. The Wales about which Lloyd wrote in A History was tribal and disunited, divided, even subdivided - at worst, a group of small principalities dedicated to fighting one another; at best, a temporary, loose confederation of princelings temporarily united as a response to actual or threatened invasion. The Welsh in 1282 were united in defeat; by Lloyd's time, they were united in the common cause of restoring national awareness, pride, and a strong national identity. Lloyd, Morris-Jones, and others thus helped achieve what Llywelyn could not: They unified the country and gave a history and a voice to Wales, reminding the Welsh that Welsh independence was a goal that should and would be met.

No more than 150 years ago, the entry under "Wales" in early editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica read "for Wales, see England." Today's entry under "Wales" is lengthy, complex, and detailed, as befits any description or discussion of a nation that can claim one of the oldest living cultures in Europe. This is due in no small part to the work of Sir John Edward Lloyd, the historian whose seminal book gave Wales a history, helped create and promote a sense of national identity, and still stands as an authoritative source and unmatched resource for researchers, historians, and, indeed, anyone with an interest in the history of Wales.

Jessica Jahiel, Ph.D., is an author and editor with more than thirty years experience in the publishing industry. She lives in Illinois.
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