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The Long Struggle for Identity:
The Story of Wales and its People

by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

The history of Wales is primarily a story of struggle. It is a tribute to the people of Wales' determination to survive against overwhelming odds -- a struggle reflected not only in its castle-dominated landscape and its surviving Celtic language, but also in its long literary history. Created in a time when the flood of Germanic pagan invaders from the continent threatened to destroy Christian Celtic civilization in Britain, its history continued through the depredations of the Vikings, the invasions of the Normans, the oppression of the powerful Marcher Lords, and the ever-constant, ever threatening power of the English people and the English language.

The early literature of Wales, documenting the beginnings of that struggle, was followed by a millennium and a half of writing that tells of the survivors -- the Welsh people themselves-- a people that Dylan Thomas, in the 20th century, praised as "not wholly bad or good." It tells the story of a people who have managed to retain much of their fullness of spirit despite a very early loss of most of their territory and political independence. It tells the story of a people who are still struggling to avert the loss of their ancient culture and language upon which much of that culture depends.


This is the story of that struggle: the theme is constant: it is a struggle for survival against almost impossible odds.

Chapter 1: The Beginning
  

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