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Early medieval Wales revisited

27 June 2023

Historian’s latest book wins prize for best work in Welsh history

Medieval historian Dr Rebecca Thomas has been announced as the winner of the Francis Jones Prize for Welsh History 2022.

Her book, History and Identity in Early Medieval Wales,is a study of how texts from 9th and 10th century Wales constructed ideas of ethnic identity. In other words, how did they set about defining the Welsh as a ‘people’, different to the other inhabitants of Britain and Ireland.

Names were obviously important in furnishing a people with a collective identity, and they are also often linked to a specific territory. Attention might be drawn to the different language that a people spoke. More often than not, shared history was viewed as important, including the furnishing of an origin legend for the gens. The book considers each of these elements in turn and investigates their use by writers in the process of identity construction.

Named in memory of former Wales Herald Extraordinary Francis Jones, the annual Francis Jones Prize was endowed in 2017 by Sir David Lewis, an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford to celebrate Welsh historical literature.

Delighted to have been awarded the Francis Jones Prize for Welsh History, Dr Thomas explains the significance of her book:

“My monograph is a close textual study of a handful of sources from ninth- and tenth-century Wales, uncovering what they can tell us about how medieval writers constructed identities. This period is particularly interesting because you see the identity of the Welsh as Britons, the rightful inhabitants of the entirety of Britain, interacting with the emergence of an identity focused on the geographical unit of Wales. We also see many of these same ideas being adapted and recycled throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, and so understanding these texts is important for how we view the construction of Welsh identity in other periods too.”

Later this month Dr Rebecca Thomas will see the publication of her latest historical novel for young adults, Y Castell ar y Dŵr (The Castle on the Water), which tells the story of the medieval crannog on Llyn Syfaddan (Llangorse Lake).

History and Identity in Early Medieval Wales was published by Boydell and Brewer in April 2022.

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