A new exhibition, Chwyldro/Revolution, is to be held at the Futures Gallery, Cardiff Bay between the 6th and 29th of September. It is jointly organised by the Welsh Political Archive at The National Library of Wales and the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, drawing on work from the AHRC-funded ‘Wales and the French Revolution’ project.
This exciting exhibition brings together a wealth of words and images exploring the story of public political discourse in Wales from the 1790s to the present day. In letters, songs, pamphlets and pictures from The National Library of Wales, Welsh voices express their radically different responses to events in Wales, Europe and the wider world.
The historian Gwyn Alf Williams claimed that the first modern Welsh “nation” was born with the American and French revolutions; so was the first democracy.
The exhibition explores Welsh responses to the French revolution, and witnesses key events through the eyes of some of the Welsh people who were in France at the time. It also discusses the impact of the revolution in France on Wales, and the British government's efforts to stifle discussion of radical ideas.
Chwyldro/Revolution further examines some of the major themes of political debate in Wales during the two centuries that followed, focusing on democracy, women's rights, labour struggles, war and peace, the Welsh language, devolution and the Welsh response to international events.
Two related events have been organised to coincide with the exhibition:
Wednesday 7th September – launch with a talk by Professor Damian Walford Davies (Cardiff University)
Wednesday 21st September – event organised by the Welsh Political Archive with Elin Jones, AM for Ceredigion.
Rob Phillips, Welsh Political Archive and Co-Curator of the exhibition said:
“The National Library is a treasure-trove of material that brings the history of politics in Wales alive. So many people have been involved in this story by marching, protesting, striking and voting to try and change the world. The exhibition is a great opportunity for us to open up the archives and explore the arguments and ideas that have fired the spirit of the people of Wales over the past two centuries. "
Mary Ann-Constantine, Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies and joint curator of the exhibition added:
"It’s wonderful to have the chance to put this French Revolution material in a long-term perspective; and this is also a timely opportunity to see Wales itself in a European context. There is a wealth of stories here in words and pictures: eyewitnesses to major events share their responses through sermons, speeches and books; in other more personal documents, fears or hopes are shared in writing, music and song. Thanks to the archives of the Library, we can see how political ideas and discussion have long been part of people’s everyday lives”
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Welsh Political Archive
The Welsh Political Archive was set up in 1983 to co-ordinate the collection of documentary evidence of all kinds about politics in Wales. It collects the records and papers of political parties, politicians, quasi-political organisations, campaigns and pressure groups; leaflets, pamphlets, other printed ephemera, posters, photographs, and tapes of radio and television programmes. Its work is not restricted to a specific department within the Library .
In accordance with the National Library of Wales’ Collection Development Policy, the Welsh Political Archive collects the personal papers of politicians who have played an important role in the life of the nation, and individuals with a high profile for campaigning on national or international issues.
We collect the papers of Members of Parliament, Assembly Members, Members of the European Parliament and Lords if they have for example held positions such as Secretary of State, party leader, minister, senior committee chair. We do not usually collect the papers of other elected members or constituency papers.
We collect the national archives of political parties (e. g. Labour Party Wales Archives) but we no longer collect the regional or branch papers of political parties (e. g. Records of Abergavenny Labour Party).
We collect the archives of national pressure groups and groups which campaign on national issues.
We collect election ephemera from all constituencies in Wales for national elections and referenda including elections for Police and Crime Commissioners. We do not collect material related to elections to local authorities.