Friday, August 25, 2006

Historical Perspectives

It seems to me that historians too often view the world from the perspective of their own time and place. Take London and Radnorshire, nowadays London has a population of millions while Radnorshire is around the 20000 mark. In the Fifteenth century things weren't like that, with London having about 50000 inhabitants and the various Marcher Lordships that went to make up our modern county having around 16000. Clearly East Central Wales was a lot more important in the great scheme of things then than it is today. We should also remember that the great majority of folk in what became Radnorshire belonged to the bonheddig class, people who were trained up for war. This again gave the area a far greater political significance than is imagined by many of the professional historians.

Another moan. We always talk about the English conquest of Wales, while failing to realise that a good portion of Wales, the March, was never conquered. While that part of Wales which was conquered, the Principality, was conquered by kings and captains who were French not English.

This leads me on to perspectives of place. The March was an area where three languages met. The area around New Radnor and Kington for example would have seen French, English and Welsh cultures interacting. From the perspective of a Welsh academic New Radnor and Kington is on the periphery of his world, and likewise for his English and French colleagues. Yet this tiny area is where the Red Book of Hergest and the Book of Taliesin were preserved, where an "English" writer like John Clanvowe originated and where tales such as Caradog Freichfras leaked into French literature.

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