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This report is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
John Davies’s A History of Wales tells how this land was incorporated into England by statute in 1536, and gained thereby the right to representation in the English parliament. With a population of rather more than a quarter of a million, it had twenty-six MPs. The famous, or infamous, Act of Union also proscribed the use of the Welsh language by those in public office. This meant that the Welsh gentry, who retained a pivotal role in administrative and cultural affairs, had perforce to become fluent in English. Thus began the slow decay, from the head, of the daily habit of Welsh. Even so, the proportion of the population who were Welsh speaking continued high deep into the nineteenth century – as much as two-thirds according to Davies. It is arguable Wales might well have remained a predominantly Welsh-speaking rural backwater, with convenient resorts offering modest mountain peaks and attractive coastal scenery to the English on vacation, when the continent was cut off due to fog in the channel or some other local difficulty. Prior to the invention of the steam-engine, the only sources of power were wind, water and the physical strength of man and beast, all in some measure unreliable. Coal and iron, metal-founding and steam-driven transport were the basis of industrial development, and Wales, blessed (or cursed?) with exploitable deposits of coal and ore, had a major role in the revolution. Heavy industry, particularly in the extensive South Wales coalfield, brought an influx of English speakers over the Bristol Channel – that is, mostly from ...

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