Gwyn Alf Williams:
In these circumstances, a people which had been deprived of its historical memory and whose children are still widely denied effective access to it in their schools, seems to have been seized by a hunger for its past. Local and amateur historical societies have proliferated while the academic study of Welsh history has become a major intellectual force.
Alongside the Welsh History Review has appeared the journal Llafur (Labour), organ of a Welsh Labour History Society which successfully marries academics and workers, traditional and novel styles, and scored a major success when, with help from the Social Science Research Council and the south Wales area of the National Union of Mineworkers, it rescued what was left of the magnificent miners’ institute libraries, which were being sold off without compunction to hungry hucksters (who also gobbled up a celebrated library at Bala-Bangor Theological College) and set up a well-equipped and efficient South Wales Miners’ Library at the University College of Swansea as a centre for adult education, active research and also as a kind of shrine, complete with a memorial to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War.
Parallel to this movement, in a way, there is Cofiwn (Remember!) a strongly nationalist group dedicated to remembering everything which, and anyone who, could help the Welsh build themselves into a nation.
While heartening, all this is also disturbing; one wonders whether it is some kind of symptom. We are living through a somewhat desperate hunt after our own past, a time of old militants religiously recorded on tape, of quarries and pits turned into tourist museums. This recovered tradition is increasingly operating in terms of a Celebration of a Heroic Past which seems rarely to be brought to bear on vulgarly contemporary problems except in terms of a merely rhetorical style which absolves its fortunate possessors from the necessity of thought. This is not to encapsulate a past, it is to sterilize it. It is not to cultivate an historical consciousness; it is to eliminate it.
When Was Wales?
Penguin, tudalen 300
Yn ystyried y paragraff olaf uchod yn gyd-destun y sgwrs ar y cofnod diwethaf, Cofio pethau.