When I began my PhD research in 2004, I was working as the researcher and archaeologist for a Welsh Language Television Series entitled ‘Tywysogion’. Seven one hour programmes examining the history and archaeology of the medieval princes of Wales from Hywel Dda (c.890-950) to Owain Glyn Dŵr (c.1346/56-c.1415/16).
Although the programmes have since been taken down from the online player, the website is still maintained http://www.s4c.co.uk/tywysogion/e_index.shtml and gives some idea of what the programme set out to achieve.
Part of my remit was to arrange the interviews with the various academics who would provide their perspective on the events and themes which were discussed in each programme. As someone who had spent time working away from academia in the commercial world of archaeology and surveying, some of the names were unfamiliar to me, particularly those people working in disciplines such as medieval Welsh literature.
As each interview was recorded, and as I read more about the history and archaeology of the period through the articles, journals, books that each person had published, one theme came through above all others.
That theme? How European in its outlook medieval Wales was.
For someone brought up on the Wales / England border, I found this fascinating. The teaching of medieval Wales when I attended a Welsh language secondary school in the 1980s felt like a very much ‘us’ and ‘them’ siege mentality.
We lost, they won…simple.
But it is so much more subtle than that…
In 2011 my father and I supplied DNA samples to a University of Sheffield project
http://shef.ac.uk/archaeology/research/copper-mines/index after an appeal for contributors http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-14173910
As with such projects, analysis of the results takes a little time, but eventually my father received a e-mail from the project team. It turned out that our Patriarchal DNA showed we had lived in the Wrexham area for 1000 years. 1000 years!
So our ancestors had been here prior to the Norman Conquest and had watched the town of Wrexham growing and changing…they had survived the Edwardian Conquest, the Black Death and the revolt of Owain Glyn Dŵr.
What I found most fascinating however was that their names must be somewhere in the medieval extents of Bromfield and Yale taken in 1315 and 1391. I use these every day as part of my research and I get a thrill out of knowing that I am writing about my ancestors and their lives, and that they knew the world was far wider than any distance they might have travelled in their individual lifetimes.