A series of long-lasting Ice Ages literally displaced ancient populations off most of northern Europe, including Wales and all of the British Isles.
After the last Ice Age melted away, new bodies of water formed, including the English Channel and Irish Sea. Britain and Ireland were now islands and Celtic peoples from Europe first arrived here around 500 BC.
The Romans (40,000 strong) invaded the British Isles in 43 AD. They called this wild land Britannia, and by 79 AD, Wales (after some rather strong resistance) was mostly subdued and then partially controlled until the Roman Empire collapsed upon itself in 410 AD.
Over the next 200 years Christianity was introduced and Wales was divided (or localized) into individual small kingdoms and principalities. Regional wars became commonplace and the land grab was on.
The English Saxons applied pressures along its then disputed border with Wales, and in 770, the Saxon King, Offa of Mercia, built a dyke between England and Wales.
In some places it was 65 feet (20 meters) wide. The Saxons called the land on the other side of the dyke "Wales." People in that land called "Wales" referred to their land as "Cymru," and their individual cultures blended together, both economically and linguistically.
The Viking invasions in the 9th and 10th centuries (in the end) actually bonded the Welsh together, making them stronger. When the Norman conquest of England began in 1066, it had little initial affect on Wales.
But then, after William the Conqueror established power bases along the Welsh border, the Normans easily controlled the south and began to covet the north.
In the north the story ending was much different as powerful Welsh princes successfully held the persistent Normans at bay. Llywelyn the Last (aptly named) was in fact named Prince of Wales by Henry III, but this victory streak of sorts for Wales would eventually end.
The English King, Edward I, began his conquest of Wales in 1272; Llywelyn was killed in battle and the 200 years it took the Normans to gain control of Wales ended with Edward I naming his own son, Prince of Wales, and that remains a tradition to this day.
Pride of place died a very slow death in Wales, and in 1400, a rebellion against England began, led by Owain Glyndwr. He declared himself the new Prince of Wales and after limited initial successes, Henry IV squashed the rebellion; English law was once again firmly in place and Glyndwr faded into the countryside.
In 1536, the Act of Union brought England and Wales together, united into one. England grew rapidly, but Wales languished in the background, remaining isolated with zero population growth and a very weak economy.
In the mid 1700's the Industrial Revolution took hold, as the mining of coal and the production of iron and tin brought Wales springboarding back to life; the railroads arrived; population surged and small southeastern communities grew into larger towns - almost overnight.
In 1926, Plaid Cymru, the Welsh National Party was formed. However, in the early 1960's the coal and steel businesses all but collapsed and mass unemployment was a countrywide epidemic.
Growing tourism revenues and high tech jobs have helped to restore some of the economy. In addition, the legal acceptance of the Welsh language, Cardiff declared the official capital, and Plaid Cymru continually holding seats in the British House of Commons, fan the fires of that positive trend.
Today Wales is certainly evolving, but some things here will never change, as the raw beauty of the land and the pride of the Welsh people will live forever.
by Christian Kober
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Riders and Hounds...
by Alan Klehr
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Pembroke Castle, Wales Kurpfalzbilder.de at en.wikipedia.org