Reviews

Martin Wright, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, 208 (Winter 2012), 144-5.

Wales since 1939 is a landmark, and, in terms of doing what it says on the cover, the book is a resounding success. Johnes weaves a colourful and compelling tapestry of modern Welsh life, skilfully drawing numerous threads – economic, social, cultural and political – into a greater whole … a genuinely new and compelling narrative. … One of the book’s central achievements, and one of its hallmarks, is the dismantling of some of the myths that surround Welsh life. … The Wales that emerges from Johnes’ account is a complex, paradoxical nation, in which events always had multiple meanings and things were rarely as they seemed on the surface. … Martin Johnes has demonstrated that the interface between the present and the past is a productive area for historians to explore, and his book should be widely read.

gwales.com (Welsh Books Council)

“this is a truly magisterial study and analysis which deserves and will certainly achieve a wide and indeed varied readership” Read the full review here.

Twentieth Century British History

Martin Johnes has written a fresh, insightful, and interesting study of Welsh history since 1939, telling the story of a small yet complicated nation in a fascinating and engaging way that will be of interest not only to Welsh historians, but to scholars in all areas of modern history. It provides another angle from which people can understand Wales as a nation, its place in the UK, and its significance concerning the debates about ‘Britishness’. Controversial and difficult issues facing Wales have been told in a balanced and measured way, with inflammatory issues, such as the miners’ strikes of the 1970s and 1980s (which have often provoked partisan assessments) being recounted dispassionately. Read the full review here.

goodreads.com

“As a social history of a given corner of our world, this is a good book; scholarly, erudite, comprehensive and exciting. As an account of modern Wales, this is an important, perhaps even vital, document. Indeed, in writing it, Johnes has marked himself out as an historian fit to join the likes of Gwyn Alf Williams, Kenneth Morgan and John Davies as a great panoramic storyteller of the two western peninsulas resolutely known as Wales, but whose recent past is shaped by things that matter more.”  Read the full review here.

Alwyn Turner (historian)

“I’ve been reading Martin Johnes’s book Wales since 1939. And damn fine it is, too. Obviously it’s going to be your first port of call if you have any interest at all in modern Welsh history, but it’s also pretty essential if you’re serious about post-War Britain. … It’s a terrific piece of political and social history, epic in its scope, fascinating in its detail, and splendidly readable.”  Read the full review here.

History

At the outset of the book Johnes rather modestly declares that: ‘it would be
nice if the present paid more attention to the past’ (p. 6). And, with regard to
Wales, Johnes surely ensures that this will be the case. Yet instead of presenting this period as a national story, with devolution as the pinnacle of a long struggle for recognition, perhaps the greatest strength of this book is Johnes’s commitment to presenting a people’s history. And the greatest strength of Johnes’s commitment in this regard is the way he explores the paradoxes in Wales and the multiple meanings of what Wales meant or more importantly did not mean to people at various junctures. This is encapsulated when he claims in his concluding chapter: ‘The history of the nation after 1939 was not an inevitable march towards devolution and perhaps beyond. Wales survived because people fought for it’ (p. 445). With this fine book, Johnes confirms that such a fight was well worth the effort. Read the full review here.

Agenda, 47 (Summer 2012). [Published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs]

“Martin Johnes has written a meticulously informed account of our recent history, founded on prodigious data, and refreshingly enriched by the ‘evidence’ of poets and novelists.  It is a healthy corrective to idealised narratives of Welsh progress, although perhaps a milder one than he may have intended.”

Welsh History Review

Martin Johnes’s history addresses, and opens a window onto, a very
vibrant, rapidly changing period socially, culturally and politically in Wales.
Although it will undoubtedly be of interest to academics and students
there is a fluidity to the writing that makes it interesting and attractive to
readers from other backgrounds too, from those who want to understand
how Wales ‘works’ politically and socially to those who seek to gain an
understanding of some of the key events that impacted on Wales, such as
the furore over the flooding at Tryweryn or the disaster at Aberfan. … In conclusion, in the fields of social, cultural and political history Wales Since 1939 makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Wales as a nation over the seventy years from the outbreak of the Second World War. It addresses the shifting constructs of identity, of Welshness and Britishness, and how and why they changed over time and should appeal to anyone interested in the history of Wales and of Britain. It deserves a wide

Reviews from Amazon.co.uk

“Probably the most complete, and objective, survey of modern Wales that I’ve had the pleasure to read.” Read the full review and others here.

Reviews in History

Modern Welsh history is not conveniently ‘boxed’ into categories in Wales since 1939, but instead its multifarious shades of grey of are articulated. Johnes has succeed in portraying the diversity of Wales in the second half of the 20th–century and has remedied the long-standing neglect of several topics under the microscope here. In many ways, this book does for Wales what Peter Clarke’s Hope and Glory or Dominic Sandbrook’s post-war histories do for Britain: providing an approachable history that does not forget its academic roots.
Read the full review here.

Wales Arts Review

The period since the Second World War has been covered in recent years by a number of histories that have enjoyed both critical and popular success. Martin Johnes has provided a seven-decades’ narrative for Wales that is the equivalent of the books for Britain by David Kynaston, Dominic Sandbrook and Andy Beckett …[It] should be the standard narrative for some time of the forces that have combined to make the Wales of the new century’s second decade.
Read the full review here

Review for publisher

A remarkable piece of scholarship, ambitious in scope, wide ranging and thunderously well-informed. It will be point of reference for anybody wanting to know about Tryweryn, Aberfan, the fortunes of the Welsh language, the transformation of the Welsh economy, the devolution campaigns, house ownership and the changing status of women, but the writer also shows how they fit together against a thickly textured canvas of social change. It draws on a phenomenal amount of reading (the footnote references are a mine of information in themselves) from the local press to parliamentary debates and social surveys, enlivened by apposite quotations from contemporary fiction. The author’s grasp and deployment of his sprawling material is most impressive and his judgments even handed. It is not polemical, ideological or partisan but a remarkably well-informed record of what happened to Wales and the Welsh in the six decades from World War II to the present day. In its construction it neatly fuses the thematic and the narrative. History is written like this today and there is a market for it, viz. David Kynaston’s doorstopping Austerity Britain 1945-51 (2007) which covers only six years not six decades. This could be one of the publishing landmarks of our time. It will be a godsend for years to come for students of politics, economics, cultural change and sociology as well as history, and given the publicity it deserves, would attract a lot of interest among a much wider readership that has first-hand experience of the events and changes that Martin Johnes details and explains.

Prof Gareth Williams, University of Glamorgan

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