Posted on 1 October 2015
Today, on the 1st of October, the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS) will celebrate thirty years since it was founded by the University of Wales in 1985.
Established as a specialist research centre conducting team-based projects on the languages, literatures, culture and history of Wales and the other Celtic countries, for the first eight years it was accommodated by the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in a building near the Old College, before moving in 1993 to purpose-built accommodation adjacent to the National Library of Wales.
Speaking about the Centre and its achievements, Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales, said:
“Since its formation thirty years ago, scholarly research and academic excellence has been at the heart of the Centre’s mission statement. During this period researchers at the Centre have made an enormous contribution to Welsh scholarship, and by working with partner institutions in Wales and beyond they have created essential resources for Celtic Studies.”
The Centre currently has thirty academic and support staff. Although it is not a teaching institution, its dedicated research environment is ideal for postgraduate students who have the opportunity to work with specialists in their fields.
Speaking about the various projects which have taken place at the Centre, current Director Professor Dafydd Johnston said:
“The Centre has seen a considerable expansion in our activities over the years with its innovative and important research projects pushing the Centre to be amongst those institutions at the forefront in research into the Celtic Nations. With its strong international reputation, high calibre of researchers, and outstanding track-record in running collaborative research projects, the Centre has made a substantial contribution to the understanding of Wales’s cultural heritage, as well as making significant advances in knowledge.”
Welsh poetry of the Middle Ages has been one of the Centre’s core areas from the outset. The first research project, led by the Director Professor R. Geraint Gruffydd, was The Poets of the Princes, the court poets of the 12th and 13th centuries, a complex corpus of poetry which was published by the University of Wales Press in seven magnificent volumes. A natural follow-on project was the work on The Poets of the Nobility which began in 1993 under the leadership of Dr Ann Parry Owen and has produced a series now running to 44 volumes of poetry from the period 1300-1525. By the time of the project on The poetry of Guto’r Glyn (2008-12) the new technology made it possible to publish in electronic format on a bilingual website which is freely available to all - www.gutorglyn.net. The current research on medieval literature is The Cult of Saints in Wales (2013-17), a project led by Dr David Parsons which aims to publish all the Welsh texts relating to the saints online at www.welshsaints.ac.uk
The University’s oldest research project is the historical dictionary of the Welsh language, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru. The collection of data began in 1920, and the dictionary was eventually published in four volumes between 1950 a 2002. The Dictionary Unit is now part of the Centre and the whole work is freely available online at http://geiriadur.ac.uk/. The Centre also maintains the Dictionary of Welsh Biography in partnership with the National Library (http://yba.llgc.org.uk/), edited by Professor Dafydd Johnston.
The Centre’s projects have shed new light on many aspects of the history of Wales and the other Celtic countries. Professor John Koch has led interdisciplinary research on the early history of the Celtic languages which has produced primary works of reference such as Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia (2006) and the Atlas for Celtic Studies (2007), and the research continues with Atlantic Europe and the Metal Ages: questions of shared language (2013-16), a project which combines linguistics and archaeology to reconsider the geographic origins of the Celtic languages.
The Social History of the Welsh Language led by Professor Geraint H. Jenkins, the Centre’s second Director, was a pioneering project which produced eleven volumes in Welsh and English tracing the fortunes of Welsh since the Middle Ages. Peter Lord and the Visual Culture of Wales project team opened up another rich area with three highly informative illustrated volumes in both Welsh and English presenting the history of art in Wales.
The Romantic period was the focus for two substantial projects led by Dr Mary-Ann Constantine, Iolo Morganwg and the Romantic Tradition in Wales and Wales and the French Revolution. Amongst the published outputs are an edition of the correspondence of Iolo Morganwg in three hefty volumes, and a series of texts presenting the diverse responses in Wales to the Revolution in France. Dr Constantine’s latest venture is a four-year project (2014-18) in partnership with Glasgow University on travel writing, Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1815.
Correspondence can reveal the knowledge networks of the past, and in addition to that of Iolo Morganwg the Centre has published all the letters to and from the pioneering scientist and Celticist Edward Lhwyd on the Early Modern Letters Online website (http://emlo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/). Dr Marion Löffler is currently working on the European connections revealed in the correspondence of the historian from Merthyr Tydfil, Thomas Stephens.
Place-names is another core specialism, led by Dr David Parsons, who is currently collaborating with the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments to develop a national collection of the place-names of Wales.
As the Centre celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, its longevity and future is secure both throughout and after the merger of the University of Wales and University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The University has confirmed its commitment to safeguard the academic and cultural activities it supports, and through Adduned Cymru – The Wales Pledge, has established a charitable company, with Arwel Ellis Owen as Chair of the Board of Directors, in order to ensure continuity of its contribution to Welsh learning and scholarship.
Maintaining its strong links with academic institutions and other cultural bodies, the Centre will continue to establish a range of research programmes to celebrate and promote the language, heritage and culture of Wales.
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