Gwyn Alf Williams, Historian, Papers

Scope and Content

Both his Gwyn Williams' historical and political writings are represented in his papers, along with a number of poems that do not appear to have been published. The core of the collection is Gwyn Williams' published and unpublished writings (GB 217 LAC/148/1), extending from his PhD thesis to his posthumously published autobiography. Also present are drafts of Latins in the Rain. The other sub fonds comprise research notes (GB 217 LAC/148/2), most relating to his study of Merthyr and on 19th century radicalism, papers relating to his television work with Teliesyn Ltd (GB 217 LAC/148/3), personal financial records and contracts (GB 217 LAC/148/4), a collection of slides and film (GB 217 LAC/148/5) some related to his research, and a miscellaneous sub fond (GB 217 LAC/148/7) consisting of mainly work by other authors. A separate sub fond (GB 217 LAC/148/6) has been created for primary source material relating to the trial of Lewis Lewis (Dic Penderyn) and Richard Lewis in 1831-2, about which Gwyn Williams had written in The Merthyr Rising 1831. The provenance of these papers remains unclear. The main value of this collection for researchers is the availability of Gwyn Williams' unpublished writings, especially on modern nationalism. They would be invaluable to any study of the British and Welsh Intellectual Left in the late 20th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

Professor Gwyn Alf Williams was a leading Welsh historian and political activist. As a historian, his interests encompassed medieval London, the French Revolution, early 19th century political radicalism, and the history and historiography of modern Wales. Among his publications were Artisans and sans culottes (1968), The Merthyr Rising (1978), Madoc: the making of a myth (1980) and When was Wales? (1985). In later life, Professor Williams became well known as a TV broadcaster, presenting programmes on Welsh history, political revolutionaries, and King Arthur. He also co-presented The Dragon has Two Tongues with Wynford Vaughan Thomas. Educated at UCW Aberystwyth, Gwyn Williams became a lecturer there, moving to the University of York in 1963, and becoming Professor of History two years later. In 1974, he became Professor of History at Cardiff University, retiring in 1985. Gwyn Williams was politically active for most of his life. He was intellectually sympathetic to Marxism, and was a member of the Communist party, leaving it in 1948. Later he was very much involved in Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party. He wrote extensively on socialism and nationalism, both in academic works and in journalism. Gwyn Williams was working on Latins in the Rain, a work of essays on Welsh themes, at the time of his death in 1995.


Divided into 6 subfonds: Writings, Research notes, Television work, Personal, Slides and films, Primary Sources, Miscellaneous.

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A paper list is available.

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Personal Names

Corporate Names

Geographical Names