Friday, July 18, 2014

Three Books and an Opinion

Anyone interested in Radnorshire history could do worse than pick up a copy of Mr Faraday's Radnorshire Taxes in the Reign of Henry VIII.  A large format, 220 page book, it's a much expanded update of articles originally published in the county's Transactions.  The book includes around 40 pages of explanatory text but in the main consists of transcriptions of over 5000 personal names, arranged by parish, together with assessments of their wealth - all taken from the surviving public records.

I've blogged about this diligent work - the raw meat of history rather than someone's interpretation  - before and produced this map showing how traditional Welsh patronyms reigned supreme in the new county at the time of the Acts of Union.

There's so much to learn from records such as this - the great extent to which traditional Celtic female names survived to give just one example - Gwenllian, Angharad, Tanglust, Goleu, Gwenhwyfar etc. as well as Cymricised versions of French and English names such as Lleucu, Mallt, Dyddgu and so on.

Mr Faraday's formidable index lists over 200 unique names which might be considered English style surnames.  This should be treated with caution.  Around a third are either Welsh adjectival descriptions Tew, Hire, Fain, Bendee etc. or patronyms where the "ap" or "vz" has been omitted.  For example David or John were never adopted as surnames in Radnorshire, as they were in parts of South Wales.  Likewise none of the adjectival names developed into surnames in Radnorshire, although they certainly did over the border in Herefordshire and Shropshire.  Those great modern-day Welsh "tribes" the Joneses and the Davieses had hardly started to emerge in mid 16th century Radnorshire - just three examples of each.  Eventually they would make up a fifth of the county's population.

In his book on Ludlow Mr Faraday has pointed out that occupational surnames often masked a Welshman and this is likely to be the case in Radnorshire as well. The index has 15 Taylors, for example, but the majority have wholly Welsh forenames Llywelyn, Owen, Morgan, Griffith etc.  Turning to the Presteigne area, where English style surnames are common, we also need to be careful on assigning ethnicity - Morgan Elvell for instance is the Welsh language bard Morgan Elfael.  Local farm names also gave rise to surnames, some of which have survived to the present day:  Bilmore, Blackbatch, Hergest, Impton, Hoddall, Stones, Slough, Treyloe etc.

Another book I purchased this week was Richard Wyn Jones's The Fascist Party in Wales?  I'd already managed to read the Welsh language version published last year but got this version for reasons of vanity - I'm mentioned in a footnote!   An excellent refutation of malicious accusations, we still await an academic work on the real fascism in 1930s Wales as opposed to Labour's imaginary version.  One figure such a study should include would be the eisteddfodwr Leigh Vaughan Henry, see here.

The third book on my list has just arrived via the postman, the newly published 800 page paperback version of Mr Charles-Edwards' Wales and the Britons 350-1064.  The latest in the Oxford University Press series The History of Wales,  at £90 the hardback version was too expensive for me.  Having purchased the first in the series, Kenneth Morgan's Rebirth of a Nation,  as long ago as 1982, the wait for this latest paperback to eventually emerge wasn't too arduous.

Lastly an opinion.  We have no idea who, if anyone, shot down MH17. There seem to be three main suspects and, accidents aside, only one of them had the means, motive and opportunity.  Having largely ignored the burnings in Odessa and the killing of numerous civilians by outrageous aerial and ground bombardments of residential areas, our media is now ablaze with self-righteous indignation.  Even more than the people of Gaza the humble folk of Donetsk and Lugansk are "unpeople" in mainstream eyes. We should remember amidst all this clamour that we are dealing with forces which could easily stumble into nuclear conflagration.  We need to think about that.

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