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This report is taken from PN Review 131, Volume 26 Number 3, January - February 2000.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

The Welsh language is the one feature that, despite the Acts of Union and the toll of centuries, distinguishes Wales from England. Pockets of Englishry, like that in south Pembrokeshire, have existed here for centuries. If, however, on the threshold of AD 2000, we look back, it should be to acknowledge that for more than nine-tenths of the previous millennia Wales was, north and south, a Welsh-speaking country. This did not escape the notice of the early English tourist in search of exotic experiences cheaper than those obtainable on the continent. In his Historical Tour Through Monmouthshire (1801), William Coxe wrote 'The inhabitants [of western Monmouthshire] unwillingly hold intercourse with the English, retain their ancient prejudices and still brand them with the name of Saxons'. Benjamin Malkin visiting the 'immense works' at Cyfarthfa, Merthyr Tydfil, noted (in The Scenery, Antiquity and Biography of South Wales, 1804) that the language of the 'workmen of all entirely Welsh', and J.G. Wood in his The Principal Rivers of Wales (1813) described the preindustrial Rhondda valleys as 'the wildest region of Glamorganshire, where the English language is scarce ever heard'. Even industrial south Wales retained its distinctively Welsh culture deep into the nineteenth century, while the rural west and north, outside the gates of the wealthy, landowning class, who were a miniscule minority, was yet more indelibly Welsh, preparing for its contemporary role as the precious 'heartland' of the language. It is also of considerable significance that, in contrast to the Anglican ...

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