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Wales and the French Revolution Series

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Welsh Responses to the French Revolution: Press and Public Discourse 1789-1802

Marion Löffler, Welsh Responses to the French Revolution: Press and Public Discourse 1789–1802

Wales had no newspaper of its own until the Swansea Cambrian was founded in 1804, but this anthology demonstrates how the Welsh used the serial literature available to them to receive the news, voice opinions and protests, and discuss new political and cultural concepts, thus participating in the British public discourse in their own, characteristically bilingual way.

The texts in this collection reveal how newspapers were used to call the loyal ‘ancient Britons’ to arms and to reinforce state authority against rioters and agitators, but also how Welsh radicals reacted by attempting to enlighten their compatriots and criticize state and established church. It does not present a ready history of a revolutionary, a loyalist or a patriotic Wales, but attempts to let the writers of Wales speak through their own texts.

The annual Welsh almanacs – the oldest periodical publications in Wales – printed poetry and prose which reacted to political events, albeit not immediately, and helped Welsh poets keep in touch by advertising Welsh cultural events.

News and comment reached Wales through metropolitan serials, but especially via those provincial papers, like the Chester Chronicle and the Shrewsbury Chronicle, which were published close to Offa’s Dyke. By publishing poetry, letters, petitions and advertisements from Wales and in the Welsh language, these newspapers also provided the only long-lasting public platform for voices from Wales.

Last not least, the French Revolution jolted three prominent Welsh Dissenters into establishing radical periodicals in the Welsh language between 1793 and 1796. Cylch-grawn Cynmraeg, Y Drysorfa Gymmysgedig and Y Geirgrawn were Enlightenment efforts to educate the Welsh people. They publicly discussed burning political and religious matters, they published Welsh translations of radical writers, such as Joseph Priestley and Benjamin Franklin, and they printed radical Welsh poetry. Though short-lived they were avidly read when they appeared. Copies were treasured and secretly kept circulated in Welsh radical circles for decades.

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