A History of Wales

A History of Wales john daviesA History of Wales by John Davies, 3/5

There is a good reason why this massive book of almost 700 pages is not a very enjoyable read–it was originally written in Welsh for Welsh people and this English translation is merely a concession to popular demand.  Davies is very thorough and efficient, providing one or two solid facts in every single sentence, but he doesn’t really make the topic interesting.  I felt completely lost just a few hundred years in and failed to get a good overall grasp of Wales’ basic history.  And, since I am not knowledgeable about Britain’s political parties, the last couple chapters were almost completely incomprehensible to me.  Overall, the book is impressive in scope and makes a good reference, but contains too many details to foster a basic understanding of the topic and does not make the history come alive.

Davies’ portrayal of Welsh history is rather grim–full of poverty, oppression, strikes, and unemployment.  While he is not critical of Socialism (which has historically been very popular in Wales), its application did not paint an appealing picture.  Perhaps it is just the American in me, but I think I would rather be oppressed by a wealthy coterie of selfish capitalists than earn a government-mandated wage, working in a government-run industry and living in government housing.

Near the end of the book, I became curious about the relative size of Wales, both in area and population.  I guessed it would have about as many people as California and cover as much land as Washington State.  Shockingly, it turns out that Wales is about 1/9 the size of Washington and has less than 1/12 the population of California (that’s less than half the population of Washington)!

[Why I read it: it was a birthday gift in anticipation of a trip to Wales.]


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