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Book - Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America - Paperback

Book - Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America - Paperback

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ISBN: 9781786837905 (1786837900)

Publication Date: 04 September 2021

Publisher: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press

Format: Paperback, 217x138 mm, 304 pages

Language: English

The exciting story of the Welsh immigrants and their descendants who made a disproportionate contribution to the creation and growth of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth.

Gwales Review (with the permission of the Books Council of Wales):-

The author has published a number of authoritative works on the course of American history from the eighteenth century onwards, and in this new book, Vivienne Sanders charts the influence of Wales and the Welsh on the history and culture of the United States. Spanning the American revolutionary war to the industrialisation that paved its way to becoming a global superpower, Sanders relates the lesser-known stories of how Welsh immigrants helped shape modern-day America.

This present work fills a distinct gap as it is the first substantial attempt to assess the contribution of the Welsh people to the making of modern America, mainly that of the numerous immigrants and the successive generations of their descendants. All the author's discoveries are delineated within the framework of a masterly understanding of the often tumultuous course of American history.

Especially prominent during the course of the study is the contribution of the Welsh to the shaking off of British rule by the American colonists and their subsequent role in the setting up of a distinctive American nation, its growth and its manifold industrial enterprises. The history encompasses the story of Madoc and his Indian descendants and the movements of the Quakers on to the hugely divisive American Civil War of the 1860s and the subsequent emergence of a hugely buoyant, sprawling American nation of the twentieth century.

And not only prominent individuals like Frank Lloyd Wright and John Llewelyn Lewis are discussed here, but also the often so-called 'unsung' heroes who contributed so much to the story. The analysis does not shy away from describing the profound sense of Welsh racism which clearly prevailed and the deep prejudice which existed against the Irish.

Among the themes which are given especial attention are the growth of the so-called 'Madoc fever' on both sides of the Atlantic and the elements in his story which do not ring true by today, the large contribution of William Penn and other Quakers of Welsh origins to the settlement of the country, and the seminal importance of the works of Richard Price (above all his Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty) during the course of the American Revolution in the eighteenth century. Particular attention is lavished on Price's contribution to the drafting of the American constitution.

Of the numerous founding fathers, the only one publicly to declare his Welsh descent was Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) who drafted the American Declaration of Independence and served as President, 1801–09.

Chapter 7 discusses the disparate motives of the Welsh who migrated to America and the factors which encouraged them to explore further from the east coast to the west where, as they were among the earliest settlers in states such as Wisconsin and Cambria, they were able to acquire large portions of land and thus gained a powerful advantage over later settlers.

Later chapters are devoted to a timely re-consideration of the Welsh settlers to the Union victory during the American Civil War, a turning point in American history, and their important roles, far, far in excess of their modest numbers, throughout the seminal period 1815–1914 in the burgeoning American iron, steel and coal industries, quarrying, and later copper and tinplate too. In these areas, the traditional Welsh Calvinistic Methodist emphasis on the value of hard graft merged with the well-honed industrial expertise of the Welsh people to create something of an industrial revolution across the Atlantic. But, as we are reminded here, Wales suffered, too, because many highly skilled workers and miners left Wales for the lure of the west.

The closing sections of the volume consider to what extent the Welsh settlers really became wholly 'Americanized' and how they were accepted in North America. Were the Welsh really considered 'a special people' by the natives? The very last point made in the text is a dire warning against believing the numerous 'myths' created or at least heavily perpetuated by an array of what Vivienne Sanders calls the 'nauseating Welsh writers', notably the contributors to Druid, the English-language Welsh American newspaper published regularly from 1907 until 1937, who certainly, we are warned, grossly over-valued the contribution of the Welsh.

The author's overall conclusion is that the early arrival of the Welsh settlers, most of them adventurous and ambitious in the extreme, across the Atlantic gave them a distinct advantage, enabling them, especially the first generation of settlers, to shape the course of early American history, above all in the all-important industrial sector. Much Welsh emigration took place before the United States became increasingly industrialised and urbanised during the nineteenth century, and those early immigrants tended to settle in small townships in rural areas. But their migration did leave a distinct gap at home too.

Although one does miss the traditional footnote references, a complete bibliographical essay fills a distinct gap in the literature. And numerous illustrations, maps and time charts add to the appeal of a most attractive volume which is penned throughout in a highly readable prose style.

J. Graham Jones

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