NWR Issue 27

History and myth in the making

In its previous issue, the New Welsh Review caused upset in some quarters by carrying an extended, highly critical review of the Welsh historian Professor Dai Smith's recent book, Aneurin Bevan and the World of South Wales. A flavour of some of the reactions can be gained from the responses of Professor Kenneth 0. Morgan, Peter Stead and Chris Williams in the current issue. (see pp. 8-11)

What has been even more shocking have been suggestions that the editor was wrong to give such generous space to D. Hywel Davies's review - he should have, in effect, suppressed his article.

The New Welsh Review is not in the business of censorship or political correctness. The magazine sees one of its most important roles to provide a forum for the expression of differing opinions. Its constituency is anyone with a concern for Wales's literary and cultural life.

Neither is the magazine in the business of puffs. Reviewers are encouraged to write what they think, within the limits of the law. A book entitled Aneurin Bevan and the World of South Wales is not just another history but a subject of central concern to the magazine and its audience. The fact that its author, having moved from head of Radio Wales to head up the BBC's English language broadcasting, also now occupies a culturally pivotal position in Wales, is yet another reason for giving it special attention.

Beyond that, the debate is important. Economic, social and cultural icons which have distinguished Welsh life over the past two hundred years are fading fast. In the words of Gwyn A. Williams, another of Wales's fine array of distinguished historians, "The Welsh or their effective movers and shapers have repeatedly employed history to make a usable past, to turn a past into an instrument with which a present can build a future. It was once done in terms of myth, it has recently and can be done again in terms of history."

If they take their responsibilities seriously, the historians still have plenty to do. Elsewhere in this issue (p.31) Jane Aaron has identified a serious lacuna in the historical record through the medium of women's writing. In his interview (p.54) with Hazel Walford Davies, Edward Thomas calls for a new Welsh mythology. And as he says that is the job of Wales's artists. But for the moment it seems an ambiguity between mythology and histiography reigns.


previous editorial: A Nobel for Ronald Stuart
next editorial: Publishing in Wales


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