Where Was Wales? The Erasure of Wales in Medieval English Culture

  • Simon Meecham-Jones
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The representation of Wales in Medieval English culture was created as, and has remained, a discourse shaped from the repetition of (often artful) forgettings and historical errors, repeated to sustain complex and sometimes mutually contradictory ideological agendas. In the medieval period, these forgettings and errors had become crystallized into a consensus of accepted, albeit contradictory, propositions, significantly derived and certainly sustained by the texts of three of the most talented and influential mythmakers of the medieval period—Gildas, Bede, and Geoffrey of Monmouth. The four central elements of this consensus might be classified as the discourse of Britishness, the discourse of authority, the discourse of peripherality, and the discourse of unequal value.2 To varying degrees, the application of these four premises has determined both the constitutional status of Wales within Britain following the arrival of the Angles and Saxons, and the level of social and cultural respect accorded to Wales within British life ever since. The crucial importance of studying how such premises were formulated and promoted in the medieval period to describe the status of Wales as a conquered and colonized subject lies in the continuing persistence of these discourses, through a combination of intellectual inertia and the embedding of privilege, to the point where they have become all but invisible, but remain potent.


Fifteenth Century Twelfth Century Medieval Period English Writer English People 
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© Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones 2008

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  • Simon Meecham-Jones

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