Restoration Wales, 1660-1689


The Religious Landscape . According to a religious census the Archbishop of Canterbury had taken in 1676, less than 1 % of the population was Catholic, about 5 % of the population Nonconformist. Cwm was the site of a Jesuit College since 1622 (1595); it was raided in 1678 during the Exclusion Crisis (King Charles II., a crypto-Catholic, had no children; his brother James was a Catholic). Wales, just like England, was split in Protestants concerned about a Catholic scheme to take control of the kingdom, and in Catholics loyal to Rome. King Charles II., in his attempt to lessen the burden on Catholic Englishmen and Welshmen, caused a number of Anglican bishops to take a stand opposing him, among them the bishop of St. Asaph in Wales.
In 1660-1662, an attempt was made to cleanse the Church of England of Puritans; clergymen who refused to use the Book of Common Prayer were expelled, and they were deprived of some political rights. This created a Nonconformist clergy in Wales, consisting of Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers and Independents. The Quakers emigrated to the North American colonies and ceased as a community in Wales.
Although small in numbers, the Nonconformists were intent to spread their interpretation of christianity; Thomas Gouge in 1674 founded the Welsh Trust, which operated schools and funded religious publications - for the Welsh public, in English language. Stephen Hughes had many religious books translated from the English into Welsh.

Politics . Wales, during the Restoration, does not appear as a political entity of her own, rather as an annex to the English polity. Major issues of the time find Welshmen on both sides, such as the Exclusion Crisis and the Glorious Revolution.
Wales, since the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542, was represented in England's parliament. the members of parliament from Wales did not form a Welsh bloc, pursue particularly Welsh interests. A good number of them joined the Tories - the nucleus of the Conservative Party; at that time supporters of the House of Stuart, by conviction or because being bribed. Only the holders of estates could vote and be elected. The class of estate owners underwent the process of assimilation into the English landed aristocracy.

Society . A consolidation process was taking place among the landowning class. The leading families tended to produce few children; marriages among these children resulted in the concentration of several estates in the hand of one holder; such marriages at times involved one Welsh and one English partner, and thus resulted in the assimilation of the Welsh landed aristocracy into her English counterpart. Moreover, the elsh landed aristocracy bought the land of holders of smaller plots, acquired these by legal trickery if the holders could not provide written documentation of their ownership, and acquired common land. These landed families often had their lands administrated by trusts - enterprises interested in increasing profits and reducing expenses.
The remainder of the Welsh population lived under difficult economic and social conditions. The majority of Welshmen lived of agriculture; their living conditions deteriorated due to the acquisition of common land by the landed aristocracy, due to the control of the country being in the hands of the trusts. As the trusts attempted to reduce the number of farmhands, this resulted in an increasing number of paupers.
Some of the latter served as sailors, some emigrated, the Welsh Quakers being an example. Welshman Henry Morgan rose to fame as a buccaneer who was promoted to English governor of Jamaica.







EXTERNAL
FILES
Welsh Membership in the House of Commons, 1543 onwards, from BBC
DOCUMENTS
REFERENCE John Davies, A History of Wales, London : Penguin (1990) 1993 [G]


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 19th 2006

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