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For alternate meanings, see Wales (disambiguation)
Wales (English)
Cymru (Welsh)
(In detail) royal coat-of-arms
National motto: Cymru am byth (Welsh: "Wales For Ever")
Royal motto: Y ddraig goch ddyry cychwyn ("The Red Dragon Inspires Action")
Official languages: English and Welsh
Capital: Cardiff
First Minister: Rhodri Morgan AM
 - Total:
 - % water:
Ranked 3rd UK
20,779 km
 - Total (2001):
 - Density:
Ranked 3rd UK
Currency: Pound sterling () (GBP)
Time zone: WET (UTC; UTC+1 in summer)
National anthem: Hen Wlad fy Nhadau
Wales (Welsh: Cymru; pronounced "k@mrI/ SAMPA, ˌkəmɽɪ IPA, 'Kumree' approximate pronunciation) is one of the nations composing the United Kingdom. (The term 'Principality of Wales', Welsh: 'Tywysogaeth Cymru', though often used, is rejected by many in Wales, the Prince of Wales having no role in the governance of Wales.)

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Subdivisions
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 Culture
7 See also
8 External link


Main article: History of Wales

The Romans established a string of forts across the southern part of the country, as far west as Carmarthen (Maridunum). There is evidence that they progressed even further west. They also built the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca), whose magnificent amphitheatre is the best preserved in Britain. The Romans were also busy in north Wales, and an old legend claims that Magnus Maximus, one of the last emperors, married Elen or Helen, the daughter of a Welsh chieftain from Segontium, near present-day Caernarfon.

Wales was never conquered by the Saxons, due to the fierce resistance of its people and its mountainous terrain. A Saxon king, Offa of Mercia, is credited with having constructed a great earth wall, or dyke, along the border with his kingdom, to mark off a large part of Powys which he had conquered from the Welsh. Parts of Offa's Dyke can still be seen today.

Wales remained a Celtic region, and its people kept speaking the Welsh language, even as the Celtic elements of neighbouring England and Scotland gradually disappeared. The name 'Wales' is evidence of this, as it comes from a Germanic root meaning "stranger", and as such is related to Wallonia, and Wallachia in Romania, also regions where a 'strange' (non-Germanic) language was spoken.

Wales continued to be a Christian country when its neighbour, England, was overrun by German and Scandinavian tribes, though many older beliefs and customs survived among its people. Thus, Saint David went on a pilgrimage to Rome during the 6th century, and was serving as a bishop in Wales well before Augustine arrived to convert the king of Kent and founded the diocese of Canterbury. Although the Druidic religion is alleged to have had its stronghold in Wales until the Roman invasion, many of the so-called traditions, such as the gorsedd or assembly of bards, were the invention of eighteenth-century "historians". The traditional women's Welsh costume, incorporating a tall black hat, was devised in the nineteenth century by Lady Llanover, herself a prominent patron of the Welsh language and culture.

The Norman conquest of Wales did not take place in 1066, when England was conquered, but was gradual, not being complete until 1282, when King Edward I of England defeated Llywelyn the Last, Wales' last independent prince, in battle. Edward constructed a series of great stone castles in order to keep the Welsh under control. The best known are at Caernarfon, Conway and Harlech.

See: Annales Cambriae


Main article: Politics of Wales

Wales has been a principality -- since the 13th century, initially under the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great, and later under his grandson, Llywelyn the Last, who took the title Prince of Wales around 1258, and was recognised by the English Crown in 1277 by the Treaty of Aberconwy. Following his defeat by Edward I, however, Welsh independence in the 14th century was limited to a number of minor revolts. The greatest such revolt was that of Owain Glyn Dwr, who gained popular support in 1400, and defeated an English force at Pumlumon in 1401. In response, the English parliament passed repressive measures denying the Welsh the right of assembly. Glyn Dwr was proclaimed Prince of Wales, and sought assistance from the French, but by 1409 his forces were scattered under the attacks of King Henry IV of England and further measures imposed against the Welsh.

The Act of Union 1536 partitioned Wales into thirteen counties: Anglesey, Brecon, Caernarfon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Flint, Glamorgan, Merioneth, Monmouth, Montgomery, Pembroke and Radnor and applied the Law of England to both England and Wales, making English the language to be used for official purposes. This excluded most native Welsh from any formal office. Wales continues to share a legal identity with England as the joint entity of England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland retain separate legal systems and identities.

Wales was for centuries dwarfed by its larger sister nation, England. Indeed, one well-known British encyclopedia was said - perhaps apocryphally - to have had an entry reading "WALES. See under ENGLAND". In 1955 steps were taken to re-establish a sense of national identity for Wales when Cardiff was established as its capital. Before this, legislation passed by the UK parliament had simply referred to England, rather than England and Wales.

The National Assembly for Wales sitting in Cardiff, first elected in 1999, is elected by the Welsh people and has its powers defined by the Government of Wales Act, 1998. The title of Prince of Wales is still given by the reigning British monarch to his or her eldest son, but in modern times the Prince does not live in Wales and does not have anything to do with its administration or government. The Prince is, however, still symbolically linked to the principality; the investiture of Charles took place at Caernarfon Castle in north Wales, a place traditionally associated with the creation of the title in the thirteenth century.


Main article: Subdivisions of Wales

Wales is divided into 9 counties, 10 county boroughs and 3 cities. These areas are functionally identical.

The cities are Cardiff, Newport, Swansea

The county boroughs are Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Conwy, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Torfaen, Vale of Glamorgan, Wrexham

The counties are Anglesey, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Monmouthshire, Powys, Pembrokeshire.

These subdivisions were adopted in 1996. Before then, Wales was divided into what are now known as the eight preserved counties of Wales. These replaced the traditional counties of Wales as local government boundaries in 1974.


Main article: Economy of Wales

Parts of Wales have been heavily industrialised since the eighteenth century. Coal, copper, iron, lead, and gold have been mined in Wales, and slate has been quarried. Ironworks and tinplate works, along with the coal mines, attracted large numbers of immigrants during the nineteenth century, particularly to the valleys north of Cardiff, which is now the capital city.


Demographics of Wales as at the 2001 Census:


Main article:
Culture of Wales

See also

External link

The United Kingdom (UK)
England | Wales | Scotland | Northern Ireland
Regions of England
East of England | East Midlands | Greater London | North East | North West | South East | South West | West Midlands | Yorkshire and the Humber