18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Good for a Television Tie-In,
This review is from: The Story of Wales (Hardcover)
This "Story of Wales" is a spin-off from a television series. It has the merits and demerits of that genre but deserves to be judged within the context of its intended readership.
In terms of word count and the author's background as a general man of letters it cannot stand up against the heavyweight academic historians of Wales. But nor was it intended to; it is pitched at a popular audience. This is made clear from the fact that the publishers have opted to give a larger blurb and photograph to a television face than to the actual author. The view through a cultural lens anyhow varies from that of the professional historian. As example, the Eton-educated director of "The Proud Valley", we are told, originally wanted to call it "One in Five", in reference to the injury rate in the mines at the time.
The book has several virtues. It is clearly structured; five parts, divided into twenty-eight chapters. It is readable throughout. Thus Vikings do not just attack but "they would shark in from the open waters." The author reports on a woman in wartime Cardiff dawdling on her way to the air raid shelter. The reason is that she cannot locate her teeth. "Hitler's dropping bombs, not sandwiches" comments her neighbour.
I personally have small interest in medievalism, where and when the borders of Sycharth or Deheubarth may have moved and shifted. But I am interested in the last couple of centuries. The Rebecca Riots happened in my part of Wales- a former tollbooth that was attacked is visible from the room in which I write. I began by seeing what the book had to say. The Riots get a couple of pages and it is a full and good description.
It is right up to date. It is good on the history of rugby. It describes the decline and loss of all the great primary industries. "The region suffered hugely from deprivation and community breakdown. Some communities became ghost villages." But the writing avoids the posture of the paid-up victimologist. It is wary of a shrill patriotism. A meaty excerpt of a speech by Aneurin Bevan is quoted, fearing government by a small coven from the Fro. It is a piece of history now but it is good that the text does not evade these contradictions. More street parties were held, it reports, in celebration of 2011's royal wedding than in any English region outside London.