Session 31: Ystafell 7
Hunaniaethau Celtaidd a Chymreig y 19g/20g / Welsh and Celtic identities in the 19C/20C

Chair: Marion Löffler

Essays on the racial origin of Britain submitted to the Welsh National Eisteddfod in the 1860s: their social context and significances

Satoko Ito-Morino
Shizuoka University, Japan

The nineteenth-century English concept of the 'Celtic race' appears imbued with prejudices and stereotypes, as indicated by the ape-like caricatures of the Irish which appeared in Victorian illustrated magazines. But racial discourses on the Celts were not produced and circulated by the English only. The racial origin of the inhabitants of the British Isles was repeatedly proposed as a subject of prize essays in eisteddfodau from 1860 until 1868, when the prize was ultimately handed to the English anthropologist John Beddoe from Bristol.

With this in mind, the paper intends to reveal how and why the Welsh National Eisteddfod came to serve as a discursive site for investigating the racial constituents of Victorian Britain. Also, it tries to prove that Beddoe's triumph markes a significant turning point in the Welsh academic world, a shift of the protagonists from clerical literati and antiquaries to a more scientifically-oriented generation of students with a mission of building up the Welsh nation as an equal partner of the English under the Union Flag.

Modern scientific approaches to the populations of the Celtic regions

Michiko Kato
Kyoto University of Foreign Studies

In this paper, I trace the scientific understanding of the human populations of the British Isles, with focus on the Celtic regions, from the middle of the nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century. The earlier period saw work by ethnologists and physical anthropologists from various perspectives, such as the work of J. Beddoe, and over the turn of the twentieth century, some scientists engaged in serological discussion. In examining their thoughts and understandings of the Celtic regions of Britain, I hope to discover some positive elements in their work.

Damcaniaethau John Rhys ynghylch cynhanes Prydain: defnyddio llên gwerin fel tystiolaeth hanesyddol
John Rhŷs' theories of British pre-history : using folklore as historical evidence

Angelika Heike Rüdiger
Prifysgol Bangor

Roedd Syr John Rhŷs, Athro Astudiaethau Celtaidd cyntaf Rhydychen, yn gasglwr llên gwerin brwdfrydig ac yn is-lywydd ar y Folklore Society. Mae ei ddamcaniaethau ynghylch cynhanes Prydain yn ddylanwadol hyd heddiw, ac yn arbennig ar lenyddiaeth. Gwelir ôl ei syniadau mewn nofelau poblogaidd, a hwythau felly'n dylanwadu ar syniadau poblogaidd ynghylch cynhanes Prydain a chynhanes Cymru yn arbennig.

Mae’r papur hwn yn dadansoddi elfennau naratifol y llên gwerin a ddefnyddiwyd gan Rhŷs i lunio'i ddamcaniaethau. Dangosir bod ei syniadau wedi eu seilio ar Ddarwiniaeth gymdeithasol ac ar y gred gyfoes bod llên gwerin yn ddrych i ddigwyddiadau cyn-hanesyddol (rhyw gof cymunedol o amserau cynt). Dangosir sut mae Rhŷs yn defnyddio motiffau naratifol-storϊol o draddodiadau gwerin y Tylwyth Teg: troir y straeon hyn yn dystiolaeth hanesyddol.

Dangosir fel y ceisiai Rhŷs amddiffyn diwylliant Cymru rhag cyhuddiadau cyfoes bod diwylliant Cymru a'r iaith Gymraeg yn israddol. Mae damcaniaethau Rhŷs ynghylch cynhanes Prydain yn caniatáu iddo gymryd pob cyhuddiad (e.e., bod Cymru'n gadarnle i ymarferiadau ofergoelus) a'u taflunio ar bobl gyn-hanesyddol, gyn-Geltaidd. Drwy ddehongli'r traddodiadau gwerin fel tystiolaeth hanesyddol, mae’r Tylwyth Teg yn cael eu troi'n bobl gyntefig sy'n meddu ar ddiwylliant israddol.


Sir John Rhŷs, the first professor of Celtic Studies at Oxford was an eager collector of folklore who served as vice-president for the Folklore Society. Rhŷs’ theories about the pre-history of Britain are still influential: in particular his ideas influence literature, and show up in popular novels. They thus exert influence on popular ideas about the pre-history of Britain and Wales.

This paper analyses the narrative folklore motifs used by Rhŷs to develop his theories. It can be shown that Rhŷs’ ideas are based on social Darwinism and on the belief that folklore mirrors pre-historic events (forming a folk memory of ages past). The paper shows especially how Rhŷs used the narrative motifs of folklore connected with the Tylwyth Teg, the Welsh fairies. Tales about the fairies were turned into a source of historical evidence by Rhŷs. Furthermore Rhŷs tried to defend Welsh culture against the charge that it and the Welsh language were an obstacle to cultural development. Rhŷs’ theory of prehistory makes it possible to deflect any prejudice against Wales (e.g., that it was a stronghold of superstitious customs) onto a prehistoric, pre-Celtic people. By taking folk traditions to be historical evidence, the Tylwyth Teg are turned into an aboriginal people of primitive culture.