From the Union to the Industrial Revolution 1543 – 1800

Following Henry VIII’s break with Rome, Wales for the most part followed England in accepting Anglicanism, although a number of Catholics were active in attempting to counteract this and produced some of the earliest books printed in Welsh. In 1588 William Morgan produced the first complete Welsh translation of the Bible.

Wales was overwhelmingly Royalist in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the early 17th century though there were some notable exceptions such as John Jones Maesygarnedd and the Puritan writer Morgan Llwyd. Wales was an important source of men for the armies of King Charles I of England,[49] though no major battles took place in Wales. The Second English Civil War began when unpaid Parliamentarian troops in Pembrokeshire changed sides in early 1648. Colonel Thomas Horton defeated the Royalist rebels at the battle of St. Fagans in May and the rebel leaders surrendered to Cromwell on July 11 after the protracted two month siege of Pembroke.

Education in Wales was at a very low ebb in this period, with the only education available being in English while the majority of the population spoke only Welsh. In 1731 Griffith Jones (Llanddowror) started circulating schools in Carmarthenshire, held in one location for about three months before moving (or ‘circulating’) to another location. The language of instruction in these schools was Welsh. By Griffith Jones’ death, in 1761, it is estimated that up to 250,000 people had learnt to read in schools throughout Wales.

The 18th century also saw the Welsh Methodist revival, led by Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris and William Williams Pantycelyn. In the early 19th century the Welsh Methodists broke away from the Anglican church and established their own denomination, now the Presbyterian Church of Wales. This also led to the strengthening of other nonconformist denominations, and by the middle of the 19th century Wales was largely nonconformist in religion. This had considerable implications for the Welsh language as it was the main language of the nonconformist churches in Wales. The Sunday schools which became an important feature of Welsh life made a large part of the population literate in Welsh, which was important for the survival of the language as it was not taught in the schools.

The end of the eighteenth century saw the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and the presence of iron ore, limestone and large coal deposits in south-east Wales meant that this area soon saw the establishment of ironworks and coal mines, notably the Cyfarthfa Ironworks and the Dowlais Ironworks at Merthyr Tydfil.