School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology
Huw Pryce was educated at Jesus College, Oxford (BA 1979, DPhil 1985). He joined the staff at Bangor in 1981 and was appointed Professor of Welsh History in 2005. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. His doctoral thesis was on medieval Welsh law and the Church, and he has published widely on the history of medieval Wales, including an edition of the documents issued by native Welsh rulers 1120–1283; he also initiated a series of biannual colloquia on medieval Wales held in Bangor since 2004. His current research focuses on the historiography of Wales, the subject of his most recent books: a study of the historian John Edward Lloyd (1861–1947), a Professor of History at Bangor who played a seminal role in establishing Welsh history as a modern academic subject, and a co-edited collection of essays on the study of the past in Wales and other small nations between 1850 and 1950. Huw Pryce is co-editor of the Welsh History Review and one of the editors of Boydell’s monograph series Studies in Celtic History.
Over the past decade I have become increasingly interested in how the history of Wales has been written and what this can tell us about the uses of the past and the construction of identities, especially in small nations. As well as studies of Gerald of Wales and of several twentieth-century historians of Wales, I have published (2011) an intellectual biography of John Edward Lloyd (1861–1947), the pioneering historian of medieval Wales who played a key role in establishing Welsh history as a modern academic subject, and co-edited with Neil Evans a volume of essays that examines the writing of history in Wales and other European countries 1850–1950 (2013).
My main current project builds on this work, and will result in the first book on histories of Wales and the Welsh from the early middle ages to the present: Writing Welsh History: Medieval Legacies and Modern Narratives (contracted with Oxford University Press).A key question addressed will be why, until the early twentieth century, the writing of Welsh history focused predominantly on the early and medieval past, and relied heavily on medieval sources, and why this emphasis changed subsequently. The book will, therefore, seek to explain the aims and scope of histories of Wales, and what these tell us about Welsh identities (including their local, British and religious dimensions) as well as about intellectual and cultural transfers (including the influence of history writing elsewhere).
My John V. Kelleher Lecture at the Harvard Celtic Colloquium in 2011 explored the reception of the middle ages in Victorian Wales, and the extent to which this resulted in a neo-medieval revival in visual and literary culture. This led in turn to two further projects. One, in collaboration with Gwilym Owen in the Bangor Law School, is a detailed study of an attempt to invoke the authority of medieval Welsh law in a legal case concerning foreshore rights on Anglesey in 1862–4, published in the Journal of Legal History, 35/2(2014), http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/flgh20/35/2#.VQCLb2ZhSZE. The article seeks to explain why and how Welsh law, effectively abolished by the Acts of Union of 1536–43, was deployed as evidence in the case and how far this marked a readiness to accommodate the distinctive legal heritage of Wales within the framework of the nineteenth-century common law. As well as analysing the legal arguments presented the study sets the case in its various contexts, including antiquarian study of the medieval Welsh law-texts. Second, I am investigating the antiquarian interests of Harry Longueville Jones (1806–70), co-founder of the Cambrian Archaeological Association in 1847. The research focuses especially on the influence on his approach to Welsh antiquities of French heritage measures, with which Jones first became involved during his residence in Paris (1834–42), when he was elected a foreign corresponding member of the French government’s Comité historique des arts et monuments. More generally, a chapter on Ireland and Wales commissioned for the Oxford Handbook of Victorian Medievalism, ed. Joanne Parker and Corinna Wagner (OUP, forthcoming) will bring my work in this field to a wider audience. In addition, I have been awarded a Project Development Grant by History Research Wales to develop a research project with Dr John Law, Swansea University on ‘Rediscovery and Revival: Medievalism in Wales, c.1750–1900’.
I have published extensively on the history of medieval Wales and continue to research on aspects of it, including Gerald of Wales. My work on historiography has a strong medieval dimension: not only does it encompass the middle ages, but from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century histories of Wales largely focused on the ancient and medieval origins of the Welsh and relied heavily on medieval sources. In 2005 I published an edition of the charters, letters and other written acts of Welsh rulers, and my research in that field was recognized by my election in 2012 as a member of the Commission internationale de diplomatique of the Comité international des Sciences historiques, which has provided a forum for exploring the writing of medieval Welsh charters and other documents in a comparative context.
Key and Recent Publications
Full list of publications