Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Welsh Girl

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The Welsh Girl

by Peter Ho Davies

The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 352 pages

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Did you know?

  • Wales, located on the south-west peninsula of Great Britain (the main island of the United Kingdom - map) is one of the four constituent nations of the UK, the others are England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Its population is about 3 million (5% of the UK).
  • The Welsh language is a Celtic language, that traces its roots back at least 2500 years; it is related to Irish, Scottish, Breton (Brittany) and Cornish (south of England).
  • Welsh speakers refer to their country as Cymru (Land of the Compatriots), Wales is from the Germanic Walha, meaning stranger.
  • The Romans invaded England and Wales in the 1st Century, but the majority of the people continued to speak Celtic.
  • The legends of Uther Pendragon and King Arthur have their roots in the late fifth and early sixth centuries when the Roman empire had collapsed and the remnants of the Roman-British people were defending themselves against the Anglo Saxon invaders.
  • By the mid-8th century most of lowland Britain had become firmly English (i.e. Anglo-Saxon) but various Celtic groups survived in Wales. In about AD 780, Offa, King of Mercia (the land bordering Wales on the English side) built a dyke more than 80 miles long from sea to sea across the peninsula to protect his land from the Welsh. This effectively defined the territory of Wales; however, throughout its history Wales was always divided into multiple kingdoms.
  • Having won England, the Normans arrived on the borders of Wales in 1067, and warfare continued until the late 13th century when Wales was annexed by England. In the 16th century legislation was passed to incorporate Wales into England.
  • The Welsh House of Tudor ruled England and Ireland during the late 15th and 16th centuries. Owain ap Meredith ap Tewdur, better known as Owen Tudor was a squire in Henry V's court. Owen married the King's widow and had five children with her, one of whom was Edmund Tudor, father of Henry VII.
  • The 20th century saw a revival in Welsh national consciousness and sentiment (arguably at its height during the time period portrayed in The Welsh Girl).
  • Following a referendum that passed by a very narrow majority, The National Assembly for Wales was set up in 1999 and has the power to determine how the central government budget for Wales is spent and administered
  • Since the passing of the Welsh Language Act in 1993, the official languages in Wales are English and Welsh. About 22% of the Welsh population are able to speak Welsh and a larger proportion have some knowledge of Welsh. The Welsh Assembly, local councils, police forces, fire services and the health sector issue official literature and publicity in Welsh and English. The government sponsored BBC broadcast Welsh-language channels on both the TV and radio.

This article was originally published in March 2007, and has been updated for the January 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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