By Roy Jones in Wales:
The nation in its fullness has yet to be
Wednesday 27th May 2015
Following the death of historian Dr John Davies, ROY JONES salutes a true champion of all things Welsh
IF AT first you don’t succeed. … And that’s the Jones family motto for today. We can have another one tomorrow.
Dr John Davies who died last week aged 76 was described as one of the most influential Welshmen of our era and I encourage anyone active in the labour movement to read his book A History of Wales.
The work tracks the development of Wales from its earliest days to modern times in page after page of interesting detail and great prose.
“The greatest book of Welsh history ever written,” Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas of Plaid Cymru calls it.
Although it is the history of Wales, it is also the history of Britain and Ireland and beyond as it traces developments that brought rich and poor to this land, from the Vikings across the sea and Britons across the border to the hordes that laboured through the industrial revolution in copper, steel and coal, changing the nation’s face more than once.
It gives due regard to Wales’s kings and princes but running through are the lives of ordinary people in every facet of their work, play and prayer. Religion on its own forms a fascinating part of Welsh history.
“Davies’s greatest achievement here is to make accessible and intelligible the entire historical evolution of Welshness, and to chart its crucial relationship to Englishness,” RJW Evans wrote in his classic review of the work for the New York Review of Books.
If it does that would be good.
The concluding page of the book illustrates where Wales has been but looks to the future and this bit of Davies may help us now. Looking back he tells of the scholar Thomas Jones who “in 1688 expressed his concern that the Welsh would be deleted from history” and of others who feared that the Welsh language would be extinct by 1950.
To which Davies adds: “It would almost seem as if the history of the (Welsh) nation is an endless journey back and forth from the mortuary and the delivery room.” But “those who proclaim the funeral are singularly unwise, for tenacity is the hallmark of this ancient nation.”
A strong devolutionist if not for an independent Wales Davies ends by writing that; “This book was written in the faith and confidence that the nation in its fullness has yet to be.”
Those who wish to believe this will have their confidence boosted if armed with this remarkable book.