European travellers have come to Wales for numerous reasons; from those seeking a romantic idyll, to industrial spies in the Victorian era and refugees from Nazi Germany. A new research project aims to use the travel writings of these visitors to redefine the perceptions of Wales as a travel destination.

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Dr Kathryn Jones of the Department of Languages, Translation and Communication at Swansea University will be working on the project with colleagues from the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS), and Bangor University.  The work is funded by a £420,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The project will investigate European Travellers to Wales in the period 1750-2010.  Until now Wales has been overlooked in the field of travel writing.  Either it is embedded in writing about England or where there has been interest in the Celtic nations, Wales has been neglected in favour of Scotland and Ireland.

However, understanding perceptions of Wales is central to our understanding of European intercultural relations, the development of Welsh identity and the establishment of the tourist industry in Wales.

Dr Kathryn Jones said:

“‘The project will be very broad in scope. We'll be investigating a wide range of texts from travelogues and diaries to guidebooks and blogs. We'll also be comparing travellers from different European countries, writing in numerous languages and at different historical periods.  We're hoping to find rich and varied material which will really help us understand European perceptions of Wales”.   

The team will be considering questions such as:

•    What view of Wales and ‘Welshness’ emerges from the texts?
•    Is Wales perceived differently from other ‘Celtic’ nations, e.g. Scotland and Ireland? 
•    Is Wales sexualised or feminised as the exotic (eg via parallels between the ‘Celtic’ and the ‘Oriental’?)
•    How have European perceptions of Wales developed and changed since 1750?
•    Have European perceptions of Wales influenced the development of Welsh cultural identity?

 The project will also fund two PhD studentships which will look into literary portrayals and travel guides respectively.

K Jones - welcome to walesA key aim of the project is to build an extensive database of sources uncovered over the coming three years, aimed at both academic and wider audiences. The project website will also offer state-of-the-art mapping tools to allow users to search and uncover information and research by clicking on interactive maps.

The project will reach out to all members of the community with a museum exhibition detailing the outcomes of the research, which will travel around Wales. Local schools and associations will be invited to participate in an extensive events programme.

The exhibition also coincides with the project’s international conference in September 2015, which will attract scholars and travel writing enthusiasts from all over the UK and further afield.

Professor Carol Tully, Principal Investigator and Professor of German at the School of Modern Languages at Bangor University, said:

“I am delighted we have been able to secure this grant. It presents us with the opportunity to undertake ground-breaking research, as well as foster the careers of a new generation of academics.”

The project team are eager to discover so far undocumented sources, which might include diaries, memoirs or travel reports of Europeans’ experiences of Wales. If anyone is aware of such sources please contact the team at europetowales@bangor.ac.uk.

Keep in touch with the research via:

The project Facebook page

Twitter @EuropetoWales