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Wales Since 1939 [Paperback]

Martin Johnes
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: £16.99
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012
The period since 1939 saw more rapid and significant change than any other time in Welsh history. Wales developed a more assertive identity of its own and some of the apparatus of a nation state. Yet its economy floundered between boom and bust, its traditional communities were transformed and the Welsh language and other aspects of its distinctiveness were undermined by a globalizing world. Wales was also deeply divided by class, language, ethnicity, gender, religion and region. Its people grew wealthier, healthier and more educated but they were not always happier. This ground-breaking book examines the story of Wales since 1939, giving voice to ordinary people and the variety of experiences within the nation. This is a history of not just a nation, but of its residents' hopes and fears, their struggles and pleasures and their views of where they lived and the wider world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719086671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719086670
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 411,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Martin Johnes teaches history at Swansea University in Wales. He works on the history of twentieth-century Wales and sport in modern Britain and has published various books and articles that look at popular sports, obscure sports, national identity, disasters and local government.

His latest book is Wales since 1939. Published by Manchester University Press, it's the first major survey of Wales in this period and has a particular emphasis on ordinary people and what makes Wales Wales.

He is currently a book about the history of Christmas in Britain since 1914.

His website is

There is a website to support "Wales since 1939" at

Product Description


'This is a truly magisterial study and analysis which deserves and will certainly achieve a wide and indeed varied readership.' (Welsh Books Council) 'Martin Johnes has written a fresh, insightful, and interesting study of Welsh history since 1939, telling the story of a small yet complicated nation in a fascinating and engaging way that will be of interest not only to Welsh historians, but to scholars in all areas of modern history.' Twentieth Century British History 'As a social history of a given corner of our world, this is a good book; scholarly, erudite, comprehensive and exciting. As an account of modern Wales, this is an important, perhaps even vital, document. Indeed, in writing it, Johnes has marked himself out as an historian fit to join the likes of Gwyn Alf Williams, Kenneth Morgan and John Davies as a great panoramic storyteller of the two western peninsulas resolutely known as Wales, but whose recent past is shaped by things that matter more' 'Martin Johnes has written a meticulously informed account of our recent history, founded on prodigious data, and refreshingly enriched by the 'evidence' of poets and novelists. It is a healthy corrective to idealised narratives of Welsh progress, although perhaps a milder one than he may have intended.' Agenda 'Modern Welsh history is not conveniently 'boxed' into categories in Wales since 1939, but instead its multifarious shades of grey of are articulated. Johnes has succeed in portraying the diversity of Wales in the second half of the 20th-century and has remedied the long-standing neglect of several topics under the microscope here. In many ways, this book does for Wales what Peter Clarke's Hope and Glory or Dominic Sandbrook's post-war histories do for Britain: providing an approachable history that does not forget its academic roots.' Reviews in History '[It] should be the standard narrative for some time of the forces that have combined to make the Wales of the new century's second decade.' Wales Arts Review 'This is a truly magisterial study and analysis which deserves and will certainly achieve a wide and indeed varied readership.' J. Graham Jones, Morgannwg: The Journal of Glamorgan History, volume LVI 2012 -- .

About the Author

Martin Johnes is Head of History & Classics at Swansea University

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an up-to-date and readable social history of Wales 18 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fine book. It is essentially a social history which is firmly based in an understanding of the important economic changes that have taken place in Wales since 1939. There is plenty here for cultural historians and for those interested in the development of Welsh national identity leading to political devolution. Johnes is very balanced in his judgments and,best of all, does not overplay the issue of Welsh nationalism. He recognises that the Welsh are not a homogenous nation but are divided North and South, English and Welsh-speaking, young and old. He argues that whilst the Welsh have always been proud of their cultural and sporting Welshness, they have been generally apathetic about political Welshness and hostile to any idea of separation from Britain. One of the strengths of the book is not to isolate Wales from its British and wider context- usually the Welsh share the same experiences and attitudes as fellow Britons, but geography has left them generally poorer than their neighbours in the de-industrialisation of the post-war era, and more vulnerable to the loss of a sense of community which had been one of their great strengths in the past.
This is a large book but it is easy to read and very well supported with statistical and other evidence and recommendations for further reading. You can easily tell that the author is very enthusiastic about his subject, and keen to share his learning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I may not agree with everything Martin Johnes says but anyone who has read his magisterial and modernistic tome of Wales since 1939 must conclude that an outbreak of refreshing sanity, backed up by exceptional humanism, flows from his considerations. He is a force for good for Wales- but also a refreshingly strong student of UKness. His balance finds its strength in his depth of learning and rigorous dialectical reasoning. This is proper modern history. His flow is irresistibly readable.

If his balanced but powerful learning is allowed to guide our changes in both the curriculum and pedagogy of history as a subject and also, perhaps even more critically, the redirection of Cwricwlwm Cymreig, our schools and society will be the gainers. That if has to be capitalised, though.

Johnes is both serious and light at the same time. He is superbly constructivist in source interpretation; no one is better at reevaluating the likes of sport, fashion, music, work, family and sex in terms of political change and effect. Johnes is also a rarity in one crucial Welsh way. He is pulsatingly passionate about his country and language without being a Cyclops. This work brings new insight and much needed new dignity to the modern historical narrative of Wales, a country whose labouring politics mixed with too much insecurity have for two decades been allowed to unbalance too much fiction and fact. Johnes, who is brilliant at sport (a sure sign of a decent human being in any academic), can be said to have played an absolute blinder from kick-off to no-side final whistle. Buy this book and you will begin to understand much better modern Wales as a much misunderstood but culturally valid (and valuable) UK country.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Socuial huistory of Wales 26 Jan 2013
By jg
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An interesting social history to complement the many political histories. Not enough on its own - but gives a better balance to other histories
Would recommend to most serius readers
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