Dr Martin Johnes’ book Wales since 1939 sheds light on a key period of Welsh life, history and culture and makes a significant contribution to ideas on national identity and to public debates on Welshness and Britishness in a devolved UK.
The publication of the book coincides with the forthcoming landmark BBC TV series, The Story of Wales to which the author contributed.
Dr Johnes was inspired to write the book as the period since 1939 had not been much studied by Welsh historians but was a time of more rapid and significant change than any other time in Welsh history.
Wales since 1939 looks at everything from the structure of the economy and communities to the values people held and the ways they lived their lives underwent huge changes.
When this is added to developments in popular patriotism, the establishment of the Welsh Assembly and the shifts in the fortunes and status of the Welsh language, it could be said that Wales is almost unrecognizable from the nation that went to war in 1939. Indeed, during and after the Second World War, some people wondered whether Wales would exist at all by the end of the twentieth century.
The book examines why those predictions did not come true. It embraces topics ranging from the Aberfan disaster, the miners’ strikes and the flooding of Tryweryn to the impacts of consumerism, sport and popular music. It looks at how the Welsh experience differed from the rest of Britainbut also highlights areas where there was little to distinguish Wales– an aspect Welsh historians have not always been keen to address.
Dr Johnes said, ‘This is a wide ranging book, just as Walesis a very wide ranging place. As well as all the topics you’d expect to see – politics, nationalism, coal and rugby – it also looks at aspects of ordinary life that historians often overlook but that mattered to people all the same.
“Thus this is a history of Wales that includes house prices, supermarkets, television and even hairstyles. I hope it not only shows readers in Wales that our history is very diverse but that is also shows readers outside Wales that this small nation is important for a full understanding of what Britain and Britishness are’.
Wales since 1939 homepage can be found at www.hanescymru.com
- Tuesday 28 February 2012 00.00 GMT
- Monday 16 April 2012 10.23 BST