Wales and the French Revolution Series

Wales and the French Revolution

This four-year research project, jointly funded by the AHRC and the University of Wales explored the impact of a period of extraordinary upheaval on Welsh life and letters, and its publications introduces readers to a wide range of texts from the period 1780-1820.

The French Revolution of 1789 was perhaps the defining event of the Romantic period in Europe. It unsettled not only the ordering of society but language and thought itself: its effects were profoundly cultural, and they were long-lasting. The last twenty years have radically altered our understanding of the impact of the Revolution and its aftermath on British culture. Yet surprising gaps remain. Even recent studies of the ‘British’ reaction to the Revolution are poorly informed about responses from the regions, and Wales has been especially neglected. Although officially joined to England by much earlier Acts of Union (1536-43), eighteenth-century Wales retained a distinct cultural identity: before 1801 seven out of ten people in Wales were still monoglot Welsh speakers, and nine out of ten spoke the language. In what ways, then, did Welsh responses differ from those in Scotland, Ireland or London?

In literary and historical discussions of the so-called ‘four nations’ of Britain, Wales is still virtually invisible. The reasons for this are complex, but at a practical level it is clear that many researchers working in this period are simply unaware of the kinds of sources available for comparative study. The ‘Wales and the French Revolution’ Series aims to redress this problem by publishing a wide variety of texts (ballads, poems, letters, sermons, diaries, newspaper articles) from the period, in Welsh and English, reflecting responses to the events of the time across the political and social spectrum. Each volume is introduced by an up-to-date critical essay situating the material in its historical and literary context.