Yr astudiaeth lawn gyntaf o destun a chyd-destun Brad y Llyfrau Gleision 1847, ynghyd â sylwadau am yr effaith ddofn a gafodd yr adroddiad ar y modd yr edrychid ar Gymru a Chymreictod. Argraffiad newydd o gyfrol a gyhoeddwyd yn 1998 (ISBN 9780708314234).
In The Language of the Blue Books, Gwyneth Tyson Roberts examines the Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, published in 1847. This report, also known as the Treachery of the Blue Books, castigated the Welsh working class as ignorant, lazy, and immoral.
Every couple of years or so it seems, flurries of media attention are given to authors or media figures, from Polly Toynbee and A. A. Gill to Ann Robinson and Jeremy Clarkson, who pass ignorant or insulting comments about Wales. Reactions to these controversies range from concern that the Welsh are somewhat thin-skinned and insecure, to claims that insulting Wales constitutes the last acceptable form of racism.
However, the effect of these incidents is nothing compared to that original ‘slap in the face for Wales’, the Treachery of the Blue Books. The findings of the Commission of Inquiry into education in Wales of 1847 caused widespread offence as it attributed Wales’s educational failings to the Welsh language, the supposed immorality of Welsh women, and above all to nonconformist religion.
It is difficult to underestimate the historical importance of the Blue Books controversy. It played a part in – or perhaps even helped set in train – a chain of events which transformed Victorian Wales.
The reaction to the Blue Books led to the politicisation of religion, the growth of radicalism and liberalism, and the emergence of a distinctive Welsh politics, as well as arguably giving a boost to movements such as male-voice choirs and eisteddfodau, promoted by nonconformists keen to prove that Wales was a more moral and cultured place than the Commissioners had declared.
Gwyneth Tyson Roberts’s seminal work on the topic, now reprinted, provides us with a detailed and insightful analysis of these reports. Beginning by placing the reports in the context of the period, Roberts examines how the language of the Blue Books illustrates contemporary Victorian attitudes towards race, culture, language and creed. Analysis is provided of the Commissioners themselves, as well as living conditions, education and women in society. The work is an expert study of how the language used in these incendiary publications can tell us so much about the cultural assumptions and social mores of the age.
Since this work first appeared, there has been some further historical work on the issue of how Wales, the Welsh, and the Welsh language are perceived from outside. Mike Benbough-Jackson’s scholarly monograph on Cardiganshire and the Cardi (University of Wales Press, 2011) is a case in point, as well as the more humorous Neighbours from Hell by Mike Parker (Y Lolfa, 2008). But Gwyneth Tyson Roberts’s research certainly stands as a key work which examines how Wales was seen by outsiders in the Victorian period, and the results of such perceptions, both in Wales and beyond.
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Gwyneth Tyson Roberts was a lecturer at the University of East London.
Gwyneth Tyson Roberts analyzes the historical, social, and political contexts within which this report was published, arguing that its choice and use of language undermines its own claims to authority and objectivity.