Wales History Timeline

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1776-1792 AD

1776: RICHARD PRICE PUBLISHES "THE NATURE OF CIVIL LIBERTY"
Price, a prolific author of books on divinity and theology, is best known for his "Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty" in which he fervently supported the right of the American colonies to independence. For his work, Price was honoured in both England and America, where he was offered citizenship. On October 6, 1778, The American Congress resolved: "That the Honourable Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee and John Adams . . . to apply to Dr. Price, and inform him that it is the Desire of Congress to consider him as a Citizen of the United States, and to receive his Assistance in regulating their Finances."

Price's ideas were indeed revolutionary: he urged that governments create a surplus of revenue over expenditure, allow it to build at compound interest and retire the public debt. He also had the startling idea that British MP's were simply trustees to carry out the wishes of their constituents and that communities such as Wales had the right to govern themselves.



1778: THOMAS PENNANT'S TOURS IN WALES
This was the first of Pennant's tours (the second was published in 1781) that helped spread the word about the intellectual and literary treasures to be found in the practically unknown country to the west of Offa's Dyke. Professor Davies sees this as the beginning of a Celtomania affecting English literary society at the close of the century. From 1770 to 1815, over 80 books were published describing tours in Wales, where the superb mountain scenery was now to be admired, not scorned as barbaric and untamed. Landscape artists such as Richard Wilson added their talents to the pool of praise; even the great Turner painted romantic Welsh mountain scenes.



1782: DAVID WILLIAMS PUBLISHES "LETTERS ON POLITICAL LIBERTY"
The essays of David Williams, in which he advocated radical political reform, like those of Richard Price, put him way ahead of his time. Many of his ideas were later adopted by the Chartists whose activities so frightened those in the establishment in the mid-1800's.



1784: HENRY CORT'S IRON PUDDLING ADOPTED AT MERTHYR TYDFIL
The method of puddling iron, invented in Hampshire by Henry Cort in 1783, ensured that, no longer reliant on charcoal, the iron industry could find a perfect home in the Southeastern valleys of Wales with their vast supplies of bituminous or semi-bituminous coal. Merthyr quickly became the home of industrial giants such as John Guest, Richard Crawshay, and the Homfrays. By 1827, the South Wales iron industry was producing one half of Britain's exports. The peaceful, verdant valleys of the South began their rapid transformation.



1784: THOMAS CHARLES CONVERTS
Charles is credited with setting up the successful Sunday School movement in North Wales that had such a profound and lasting influence on the language and culture of that region; an influence that is still a constant source of wonder to monoglot English-speaking Welshmen and women from other parts of Wales, not to mention visitors from other parts of the British Isles. Under Charles' leadership, the British and Foreign Bible Society published the standardized text of their first Welsh Bible, and the SPCK its edition of the New Testament. Another major achievement was the "Thomas Charles Bible" published in 1814.



1788: THE FIRST WELSH PEOPLE ARRIVE DOWN UNDER
The first Welsh people to arrive in the new colony of Australia were guests of the "First Fleet." They were convicts: two men and two women. Before that, the medical officer on Captain Cook's ship the Discovery, was Dafydd Ddu Feddyg (Black David the Doctor). In the 1830's more convicts arrived, including Lewis Lewis, sentenced following the Merthyr Riots and John Frost, following the Newport Rising. Perhaps the most famous of all the Welsh immigrants to arrive "Down Under" was Joseph Jenkins, who left Wales because of a nagging wife and whose exploits as "the jolly swagman" of the popular song has earned him a prominent place in the pantheon of Australian folk heroes.



1790: RICHARD PENNANT'S ROAD TO THE COAST
The growth of the North Wales slate industry was ensured by the building of a road from the inland quarries to the coast at Port Penrhyn, near Bangor by capitalist Richard Pennant. Such ports also helped in the growth of the Welsh maritime industry, an important part of the country's economy, especially in the export of the products of the burgeoning Welsh woolen industry.



1790-1800: THE GREAT ERA OF CANAL BUILDING IN WALES
To link the iron works of the Merthyr district to the port of Cardiff, a series of canals was constructed in the 1790's. By 1800, the towns of Swansea, Neath, Cardiff and Newport had all been linked to the coalfields by these canals. In North Wales, the completion of Telford's 1007 ft-long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a stupendous feat of contemporary engineering, carried the Shropshire Union Canal across the River Dee at a height of over 120 feet in a leak-proof, cast-iron trough supported by 19 piers.



1792: THE REVIVAL OF THE ANCIENT EISTEDDFOD
An article in "The Gentleman's Magazine" of October, 1792 noted the following: "This being the day on which the autumnal equinox occurred, some Welsh bards, resident in London, assembled in congress on Primrose Hill, according to ancient usage. Present at the meeting was Edward Jones who had published his "The Musical and Poetical Reelicks of the Welsh Bards" in 1784 in a belated effort to try to preserve the native Welsh traditions being so ruthlessly stamped out by the new breed of Methodists.

It was also in 1792 that Sir William Jones (whose study of Sanskrit led him to discover the link between Welsh and other Indo-European languages), announced the discovery of America by Prince Madoc 300 years before the voyages of Columbus.

  

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