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From Roman Forums to EU Leisure Centres and beyond: Welsh Towns in History

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This course examines the growth and development of urban Wales from the Roman towns of Caerwent and Carmarthen to the emergence of Cardiff as the country's capital city.

Over the 10 weeks, students will explore the nature of Welsh towns and their evolution within the wider context of urban Britain.

As well as addressing the effect that national and local events had on Welsh urban settlements, they will also examine the political, economic and social changes that impacted the lives of those who lived within these towns.

The course syllabus covers:

  • Week 1: Roman towns and early Welsh settlements.
  • Week 2: The Norman invasion and castle planted towns
  • Week 3: Life in the medieval towns of Wales
  • Week 4: 16th and 17th centuries: reorganisation, reformation and rebellion
  • Week 5: 17th and 18th centuries: Decline and stagnation
  • Week 6: Nineteenth century growth: Merthyr, Swansea and Newport
  • Week 7: The emergence of Cardiff
  • Week 8: Small town urbanity
  • Week 9: The destruction and deterioration of Welsh towns during the 20th century
  • Week 10: Rejuvenation and diversification.

Students will explore the following themes:

  • Urban and Population growth
  • Political and economic developments
  • The impact of national and local events
  • The life of the people: occupations, housing, education, religion, culture, recreation, sport
  • Debates surrounding the definition of 'urban'.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching are undertaken by means of small group work.

This is a 10-credit course, so there will be two-hour meetings once a week (20 contact hours in all) which will include group discussion, exercises, source analysis and presentation of material on video and/or DVD.

The aim is ensure that the classes are enjoyable and stimulating for all. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the topics and ideas discussed in the course.

Coursework and assessment

Essays or other equivalent written assignments to a total of 1500 words demonstrating an understanding of core elements of the course material.

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

You will not have formal examinations but you may have class tests. You may be asked to write assignments, keep a course journal or put together a portfolio.

Our assessments are flexible to suit the course and the student. The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

  • Borsay, P. (ed.), The Eighteenth Century Town. 1688-1820 (London, 1990).
  • Moore, D. (ed.), Wales in the Eighteenth Century (Swansea, 1976).
  • Carter, H. The Towns of Wales (Cardiff, 1965).
  • Corfield, P. J. The Impact of English Towns 1700-1800 (Oxford, 1982).
  • Davies, J. A History of Wales (London, 1990).
  • Fulton, H. Urban Culture in Medieval Wales (Cardiff, 2012).
  • Jenkins, G. H. The Foundations of Modern Wales 1642-1780 (Oxford, 1993).
  • Thirsk, J. (ed), Agrarian History of England and Wales (Cambridge, 1967).
  • Williams, C. (ed.), A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2004).

Also relevant chapters in The Cambridge Urban History of Britain and the journal of Urban History, Volume 32 (2005).

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.