Wales’ history is being erased – we need to teach it at school

“The Story of Wales” – Green Bay Media for BBC and the Open University.

 

Over 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for the teaching of Welsh history in Wales’ schools. Here its creator, Elfed Wyn Jones, explains what inspired him to start it.

If you stopped a passer-by in a street in Wales, and asked them to sum up our nation’s history, what would they say?

They would probably mention 1066, Henry VIII and his six wives, and the First and Second World War.

But what if you said: ‘No, I mean Wales’ history.’ Would their eyes narrow? Would they scratch their head as they rummaged around in the back-rooms of their mind for some half-forgotten fact from our nation’s past?

They would eventually probably come up with something vague bout Owain Glyndŵr, or miners or quarrymen depending on where in Wales they come from.

It’s unlikely however that they would have any real grasp our national history, and the effect it has had on their daily lives, and its importance in our present and future.

From the Laws of Hywel Dda to the Acts of Union, through to the boom of the industrial revolution and the fight for our own parliament, Wales has a rich history that goes back thousands of years.

Much of this history will remain mouldering in the attics of the nation’s subconscious, and unless you pursue a postgrad degree in Welsh history you’ll never get to hear about most of it.

Milan Kundera said that “the first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history”.

After that “have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was”.

“The struggle of man against power,” he said, “is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

Paths

I’m currently on a process of discovering Welsh history, but I would never have done so unless I had gone looking for it.

I can recall only two lessons on Welsh history at school, one about Llywelyn, the last Prince of Wales, and the other about Owain Glyndŵr.

And these lessons were mere “add-ons” to the main curriculum, just to give us a little taste of ‘local’ history.

I set up a petition to ask our national parliament to introduce Welsh history on the curriculum because I don’t want the children of Wales to miss out like I did.

I would like the Welsh Assembly to craft a curriculum that includes every aspect of Welsh history and is relevant to every part of Wales and children from every background.

If we don’t know what paths we’ve travelled along in our past, how do we know where we’re going in the future?

So please, sign the petition, to teach our children about who we are, and to unite Wales under a curriculum that shines a light on every corner of our nation’s history.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

We do not moderate comments before they appear. The views expressed in the comments are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nation. Cymru. Please read our community standards and participation guidelines before contributing.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Craig
Guest
Craig

Not going to happen though. The very very last thing the Labour in Wales government wants to do is create citizens with a strong sense of national identity. The same goes for creating a million Welsh speakers. If you believe in Wales rather than Britain, chances are you’ll vote Plaid. If you speak Welsh, chances are you’ll vote Plaid. Labour in Wales exists for one reason, and that is to hold on to power. They think the only way they’ll do that is by rigidly maintaining the status quo. 1066 isnt even Wales’ history, but we are stuck with it.

David Jonathan Wheeler
Guest
David Jonathan Wheeler

I think that’s a depressing assessment but there must be a certain amount of truth in it. If people can get this petition circulated extensively throughout Wales and get a large percentage of the adult population to sign it then the Welsh Government could be forced to do something about it.

JD
Guest
JD

Yes I welcome this. But I would argue many aspects of history are well covered. The crucial missing bits for me at school werethe age of the Princes and the fall of Llywelyn and what happened to Gwenllian. This is now being taught albeit at a year 7 level.

The Act of Union was bypassed too. However, I was drowning in industrial revolution history, Rebecca Riots, Newport Chartists, Dic Penderyn, Bethesda strike etc by the end.

It’s about being taught from a Welsh perspective which is different from being taught about Welsh history.

Martin
Guest
Martin

Absolutely true. Plaid Cymru needs to get the education ministry. Simple as that.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

They’ve never had any inclination towards getting our history taught in schools. In fact all you’ve got to do is look at their manifesto for the last lot of elections… “defending Welsh identity”… and that was all they said on that. No details. Not held to account for it either.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

I completely agree that our history needs to be taught… it needs a lot of work to make it coherent and dump the nonsense churned out by Geoffrey of Monmouth and understanding the need of Kings to relate themselves with some pretty barmy origins. Anyway… I’m now going to say something controversial: Where is Plaid Cymru in all this? They say they defend our identity – but that is all they’re doing – saying and claiming. Getting Welsh History into schools should have been first thing on the agenda in 99′. I’ve never seen any mention of it ever. If… Read more »

Martin
Guest
Martin

It’s in their devolved manifesto for Assembly elections. “Develop more awareness of Welsh history through the education system”.

Frankly, the idea that supporting Plaid is damaging this, is insane.

Get them into power, with the Education Ministry.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

That line in an 190 page manifesto. Does it expand on it? No. Our history is as important to our identity as our language. Do you feel that they have made progress towards this goal in the past year? We’re talking one of the three pillars of our identity here along with language and culture… Educating over the Blue Books and how the Welsh language was effectively taken from people will have a huge impact in the valleys.

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

I agree, though as JD points out, it’s history from a Welsh perspective rather than Welsh history that we need. I was fortunate to have been able to have studied some aspects of Welsh history whilst a student at Coleg Harlech in the mid 80s, which emphasised that it’s the perspective that is important, and that teaching it in isolation, i.e. teaching Welsh history, is pretty worthless, especially as us Welsh have always defined ourselves in the reflection of others – we didn’t start to define ourselves as Cymry until that other lot started to define us as Welsh! So… Read more »

Craig
Guest
Craig

Pressure the BBC to produce programmes of historical interest!!! Hahahaha. How they going to do that without the words “Great Britain” in the title?

Huw Griffiths
Guest
Huw Griffiths

The importance of teaching pupils in Wales about their history and culture has been outlined by Dr Elin Jones in 2013 in a report on ‘Welsh history, the story(ies) of Wales and the Cwricwlwm Cymreig’ which was accepted in its entirety by the then Minister for Education. Unfortunately everything has now been placed on hold with the new curriculum. The only body which has responded to the report (and they should be applauded) is the examination board WJEC who have changed GCSE History to include a considerable amount of Welsh history. Pupils in Wales should now about who they are… Read more »

Anon
Guest
Anon

It’s frankly insulting to the 55000 Welsh men and women killed in the First and Second World Wars to suggest those conflicts aren’t part of Wales’ history.

Teaching more Welsh history would be a good thing but that also means recognising that there is a British dimension to Wales too and one that was not imposed against the will of the majority of the Welsh.

Craig
Guest
Craig

Its frankly insulting to use the “55000 Welsh men and women killed in the First and Second World Wars” as a reason why we need to continue with an English centric education system. Nobody in Wales, at least nobody i have heard discussing this subject, is proposing that we ignore the two biggest international conflicts. We are suggesting that it makes sense to teach Welsh history to Welsh people. Our history involves those two world wars. It would however discuss it from a Welsh perspective. For example, there was a large and active campaign Welsh against joining up in the… Read more »

Craig
Guest
Craig

And “one not imposed against the will of the majority of the Welsh”! Can we see your proof for that? Petitions, referenda, pro British mass movements, anything at all?

anon
Guest
anon

The article very clearly says that if someone was asked about “our nation’s history” and replied the world wars, the answer would be “No, I mean Wales’ history”. On evidence of a willing Britishness: every single general election ever fought in Wales has seen pro-union parties win a huge majority of Welsh votes. Wales is a democracy and not once has the Welsh electorate ever shown that independence is anything but the belief of a minority. As you say, there is a Welsh perspective on both world wars but the vast majority of Welsh people in both conflicts also felt… Read more »

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

To deal with the alleged voluntarism of the colonisation of Wales, and it’s subsequent Anglicisation there would need to be and anti-colonialist and deconstructive element to any scheme of studies. There is little question that the English language and culture didn’t really have to struggle to penetrate Wales, the question is how, and why? We all know about Brad y Llyfrau Gleision, but why was that report commissioned in the first place, and why did the Welsh, and often Welsh speaking elite collude with it’s findings? Why do many Welsh people still defer to English sentiment, and why is the… Read more »

Tal Mac
Guest
Tal Mac

I was watching Heno last night (confused?), and I was enjoying one of the many local history pieces that they do, and it dawned on me that english speakers in Wales have nothing similar that is told from a Welsh perspective. I know they have the one show, but that’s almost always about eng.
I know there’s under-representation of welsh english speakers, that’s obvious & acknowledged in reports, but they seem content with this.
I suppose it’s the same as always voting labour, and expecting representation in London. Keeps the status quo.

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

It’s a good point. BBC Cymru/Wales doesn’t have a magazine show, where bite-sized content pieces like this can be shown. It’s all very well have a series of history programmes made and shown after the 10 O’Clock news, but much like the political shows they only really appeal to those who are already interested. The lack of a BBC Wales version of the one-show or Heno is a problem in terms of converying simple interesting facts and information that can inspire people to want to discover more. having said all of that – maybe bite-sized interesting, quality content on You-Tube… Read more »

Emrys
Guest
Emrys

Far more work needs to be done on teacher training courses which appear to be woefully inadequate at the moment. Prospective teachers – not only history teachers – need to be introduced to aspects of Welsh History which can be implemented in their lessons. Many history teachers in Wales have no real idea about Welsh history [particularly those who have emigrated from England] and continue to teach British History i.e English History with the occasional Welsh add on. This might be an area that ESTYN could try and improve, Unfortunately many primary schools still tend to focus on the second… Read more »

Gaynor
Guest
Gaynor

The welsh contribution to Brit history and beyond from refotmation through to enlightenment is totally ignored in welsh history in schools and colleges/ radical, internationalist and inventive and probably far more important than a bunchnof blokes in tights decapitating each other