Wales – or Cymru
Wales, Welsh: Cymru; is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km² (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,200 km (746 mi) of coastline, including its offshore islands; the largest, Anglesey (Ynys Môn), is also the largest island in the Irish Sea. Generally mountainous, its highest mountains are in the north and central areas, especially in Snowdonia (Eryri), which contains Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), its highest peak.
During the Iron Age and early medieval period, Wales was inhabited by the Celtic Britons. A distinct Welsh national identity emerged in the centuries after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and Wales is regarded as one of the modern Celtic nations today. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn was recognized as king of Wales in 1057. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s death in 1282 marked the completion of Edward I of England’s conquest of Wales. The castles and town walls erected to ensure its permanence are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Owain Glyndŵr briefly restored independence to what was to become modern Wales, in the early 15th century. Wales was subsequently annexed by England under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 since when, excluding those matters now devolved to Wales, English law has been the legal system of Wales and England. Distinctive Welsh politics developed in the 19th century. Welsh Liberalism, exemplified in the early 20th century by Lloyd George, was displaced by the growth of socialism and the Labour Party. Welsh national feeling grew over the century; Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925 and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) in 1962. The National Assembly for Wales, created in 1999 following a referendum, holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters.
FARMS TO INDUSTRY
It was an agricultural society for most of its early history, the country’s terrain making arable farming secondary to pastoral farming, the primary source of Wales’ wealth. In the 18th century, the introduction of the slate and metallurgical industries, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, began to transform the country into an industrial nation; the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape date from that period. The south Wales coalfield’s exploitation in the Victorian era caused a rapid expansion of the Welsh population. Two-thirds of Wales’ three million population live in south Wales, mainly in and around the cities of Cardiff (Caerdydd), Swansea (Abertawe) and Newport (Casnewydd), and in the nearby valleys. Another concentration live in eastern north Wales. Cardiff, Wales’ capital, is the country’s most populous city, with 317,500 residents, and for a period was the biggest coal port in the world. Today, with the country’s traditional heavy industries (coal, steel, copper, tinplate and slate) either gone or in decline, Wales’ economy depends on the public sector, light and service industries, and tourism.
THE WELSH IN AMERICA
The Welsh have made a major contribution to the United States, including William Penn, 1644-1718, proclaimed freedom of religion. Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, third President of the United States, composed the Declaration of Independence. Robert Morris, 1734-1806, foremost financier of the American Revolution and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Governor Morris, 1752-1816, wrote the final draft of the Constitution of the United States. John Marshall, 1755-1835, Chief Justice of the United States and father of American constitutional law. There have been at least eight U.S. Presidents with Welsh ancestry including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Garfield and Barack Obama. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was also of Welsh extraction.
Language and Culture
Welsh (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg, is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales and in Y Wladfa (the Welsh colony in Chubut Province, Argentina). A greeting in Welsh is one of 55 languages included on the Voyager Golden Record chosen to be representative of Earth in NASA’s Voyager program launched in 1977. The Welsh greeting – Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn oesoedd – which translates into English as “Good health to you now and forever”
The National Assembly for Wales (Welsh: Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) is a devolved assembly with power to make legislation in Wales. The Assembly comprises 60 members, who are known as Assembly Members, or AMs (Welsh: Aelod y Cynulliad). Members are elected for four-year terms under an additional members system, where 40 AMs represent geographical constituencies elected by the plurality system, and 20 AMs from five electoral regions using the d’Hondt method of proportional representation. The Assembly has powers legislate without having to consult the UK parliament, nor the Secretary of State for Wales in the 20 areas that are devolved. .
There are many sources of information available that provides more information on the role of he Welsh in America and the country. The links Page has an abundance of sections that provide links to a broad selection of sites that will allow more research.