Staff Profile of Dr Mari Elin Wiliam

Dr Mari Elin Wiliam
Mari Elin Wiliam
Lecturer in Modern and Welsh History
01248 383019
T19, Turret.

Biography and Research Areas

Mari Elin Wiliam’s academic studies were completed at the School of History and Archaeology, Bangor University (BA 2002; MA 2004; PhD 2009). After a period teaching for the Open University and working at the Welsh Language Planning Centre, she was appointed a Research Assistant on the Duncan Tanner Archive project at Bangor in 2010–11. Following a further year as both a part-time tutor and researcher on a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol website at Bangor, she was appointed a full-time lecturer in September 2012. Her PhD was supervised by the late Professor Duncan Tanner, and it focused on cultural and social change in Wales during the period 1950–62. She is in the process of developing it into a Welsh language monograph entitled ‘Moderneiddio, hunaniaeth a Phrydeindod yng Nghymru, 1939-c. 1962’ (Modernisation, identity and Britishness in Wales, 1939-c. 1962). She is currently also participating in research projects and collaborations focusing on the history of the Urdd youth movement, the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, the Labour Party and oral history. She teaches and researches through the medium of English and Welsh.

Areas of Teaching and Supervision


  • Module convenor
  • Wales in the Modern World
  • Cymru yn y Byd Modern
  • Britain in the Jazz Age
  • Re-igniting the Dragon: Wales since 1939
  • Europe 1945–1999: The Age of the Cold War
  • Module Tutor
  • Thatcher’s Britain [module convenor Dr Andrew Edwards]
  • USA, 1945–9/11 [module convenor Dr Andrew Edwards]


  • The Labour Party [co-convened by Dr Andrew Edwards and Dr Dinah Evans]

PhD supervision

Current PhDs

  • Second supervisor to projects led by Dr Andrew Edwards:
  • Peter Davies: ‘The Effect of the Two World Wars on the Drapers’ Company’ (Drapers’ Scholarship).
  • Alun Ephraim: ‘Slate Communities in North-West Wales (CYMAL/KESS funded).
  • Martin Hanks: ‘Temporary Migration to Wales during the Second World War’ (Bangor 125 Scholarship).

Current Research

I mostly research on 20th century Welsh and British political and cultural history, and would be happy to supervise projects in these subject areas: Welsh identity and nationhood; Britishness; pageantry (e.g. Festival of Britain, Coronation, Eisteddfodau); the history of the Welsh language and protest; political history (especially in Wales); Welsh devolution; cultural identity.

Here are my current three main research strands:

Modernisation and Identity in Wales

This project aims to develop my AHRC-funded PhD thesis, ‘Modernisation and Identity in Wales, c. 1950–1962’ into a monograph. In the work I explore the cultural engagement between Britishness, Englishness and Welshness during a pivotal period of post-war Welsh history. There is a tendency to portray the 1950s as a morose decade for Wales, with much of that focus based on the drowning of Cwm Tryweryn. In contrast, the establishment of the Welsh Language Society in 1962, and the subsequent protests, is viewed as a period when the language was ‘saved’ by radical activism and political nationalism. However, this research argues that there were extensive and unheralded efforts by both a cultural elite and at grassroots level to halt the decline of the Welsh language during the 1950s. This was encapsulated in the battle to modernise the language, and to make it relevant to the age of nuclear power and the television. In addition, issues such as rural electrification, beauty pageants and expositions demonstrate that ‘Welshness’ could be unearthed in the most unexpected of places. Several case studies for the monograph stem from north-east Wales, and area that tends to be neglected in traditional overviews of modern Welsh history.

I aim to produce a monograph for the University of Wales Press by 2015 (Welsh medium), and to publish an article on the 1953 Coronation and Wales for a journal by 2016 (English medium). I have delivered conference papers at Harvard, Aberystwyth University and Bangor University deriving from the project, and will be delivering another at the NAASWCH conference in Ontario in 2014.

Labour Party History/Devolution [Duncan Tanner papers]: led by Dr Andrew Edwards

I worked as an RA on the late Professor Duncan Tanner Papers in 2010/2011, organising his research on both the history of the Labour party in the 1920s and some of the findings of the major ESRC project on devolution that he led with Dr Andrew Edwards. This is still leading to a number of research outputs. In February 2011 I assisted with the organisation of the Duncan Tanner Memorial Symposium at Bangor, and I have written a chapter for his festschrift, The Art of the Possible (MUP, 2014), exploring the fluctuations in the Labour party’s relationship with devolution between 1979 and 1997. Andrew Edwards and I co-authored an article on the Labour party and its relationship with cultural identity during the post-war decades, which revised perspectives of some Welsh Labour politicians. I am currently co-editing Duncan Tanner’s unpublished monograph, Building the Labour Party, with Professor Andrew Thorpe, and this will be published by I. B. Tauris in 2014.

The Urdd Centenary History: with Nia Powell

Due to an approach by the Urdd in September 2012, I am jointly leading a project (with Nia Powell) to produce a centenary history of the Urdd by 2022. This is at an incipient stage at the moment, but it is foreseen as a multidisciplinary project, and interest has already been expressed by staff at the Schools of Music, Social Science and Psychology (amongst others) at Bangor. We aim to launch the project officially at the Urdd National Eisteddfod at Bala in May 2014, and to hold a conference in Bangor in 2015/16. The research is likely to lead to at least one academic edited volume as well as a more popular history of the organisation.


2009: Duncan Tanner and Mari Elin Wiliam, ‘The Freedom of Information Act and Welsh Devolution’, in Andrew Flinn and Harriet Jones (eds.), Freedom of Information: Open Access or Empty Archives? (Routledge, April 2009).

2012: Andrew Edwards and Mari Elin Wiliam, ‘The ‘Red Dragon/Red Flag’ Debate Revisited: The Labour Party, Culture and Language in Wales, 1945-c. 1970’, Welsh History Review, 26.1 (June, 2012), pp. 105–127.

2012: Mari Elin Wiliam, “A Slippery Slope?’ The impact of Scottish independence on Wales’, e-International Relations, (27 October 2012),

2013: Nancy Edwards and Mari Elin Wiliam, ‘Trafod Archeoleg yn Gymraeg’, (April, 2013). [Report and recommendations for the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol on Welsh medium archaeology in Higher Education].

2013: Mari Elin Wiliam, ‘Road signs helped to subjugate the language’, Western Mail, 11 May 2013 [article for the objects in Welsh history series].

2013/14 (Forthcoming) Mari Elin Wiliam, ‘The Labour Party, Britishness and Devolution’, in Andrew Edwards and Chris Williams (eds.), The Art of the Possible: Politics and Governance in Modern British History, 1885–1997 (Manchester University Press, 2013/14).

2014 (Forthcoming) Andrew Thorpe and Mari Elin Wiliam (eds.) of Duncan Tanner, Building the Labour Party: Progress and Failure, 1906–1929 (I. B. Tauris, 2014).

2014/15 (Forthcoming) Mari Elin Wiliam, Moderneiddio, Hunaniaeth a Phrydeindod (monograph, 2015/16).

Conferences organised

  • Duncan Tanner Memorial Symposium, 9–10 February 2012, Bangor University, co-organised with Dr Andrew Edwards (Bangor) and Professor Chris Williams (Swansea).
  • NAASWCH Conference, 26–28 July 2012, Bangor University, co-organised with Dr Andrew Edwards (Bangor) and Professor Tony Brown (Bangor).
  • Trafod Archeoleg yn Gymraeg (Discussing Archaeology in Welsh), 27 October, 2012, co-organised with Professor Nancy Edwards (Bangor).

Community engagement

  • Bilingual oral history training with Dr Andrew Edwards for community groups and those funded by the Heritage Lottery (e.g. Copper Kingdom Project, Amlwch; Llyfr Bro Aled Project, Llansannan etc.)
  • Revision sessions and university taster days with secondary schools e.g. Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Wrecsam; Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen, Caernarfon.
  • Activities at Eisteddfodau e.g. Welsh identity sessions at 2012 Urdd Eisteddfod.
  • Lectures to local history societies (in Welsh or English).

Administrative Duties

  • Web and marketing officer on the organising committee of the North American Association for the Study of Welsh Culture and History (NAASWCH).
  • Collator of ‘Welsh history after 1660’ list of academic articles for the Welsh History Review.
  • Library Representative for the School of History and Archaeology and member of the Teaching and Learning Committee.
  • Member of the Welsh History/Welsh medium committee for the School of History and Archaeology.