Welsh Economy



Figure 1.--The Welsh coalfields helped power Britain's Industrial Revolutiom. Exports also powered industry throughout Western Europe. Economic problems began after World War I, but after World War II the Welsh mines cold no longer compete with more efficent mines abroad forcing many mines to close and lat off miners. The 1966 press caption here read, "Escape Route: They are growing up in Hopkinstown, one of the dismal coal mining tons of Rhondda Valley in Wales. But these boys, playing in their school playground, will nver be miners, say their parents. With a a chance for advanced education --not even a dram for their parents -- they hop for jobs in other industris. It was a school similar to this, in nearby Aberfan, that the crashing of a slg heap last Oct. 21 killed mny children among a total of 144 victims." The phorograph was dated 11/21/66, in Britain this proably meant December 11.

Wales is on of the constiuent parts of the United Kingdom after England and Scotland. After two centuries of guerilla warfarem, Edward I conquered Wales (1282). This was several centuries before union with Scotland. As a result, Wales became integrated into the English economy centries before Scotland. The economic development of Wales fell behind that of England. The peripheral location of Wales and rugged upland topography, poor transport infrastructur, and small population were all factors. [Falkus and Gillingham] Commerce was mostly active in the ports and thedrivers who drove cattle and sheep into the prosperous English Midlands. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution (mid-18th century), Welsh mineral resources became important. This included both iron ore and coal. Iron smelting by coke (a coal product) turned the South Wales Valleys an important industrial location. The Industrial Revolution began with water power, but this soon prived inadequate to power the ever-increasing number of factories. As the Indistrial Revolution developed, the demand for coal and iron/steel resulted from the development of steam power (steamships and railways). [Falkus and Gillingham] The northern rim of the South Wales Coalfield was developed around on Merthyrwhich became Britain's most important iron-producing district (late-18th century). The southwestern area around Swansea became an important center of non-ferrous metal smelting and tinplate manufscture, in part ecause of the plentiful coal supply. Tin was available in nearby Cornwall. Slate becme another important indutry (9th century). Metallurgical industries required coal which at first was largely mined for this purpose. The need for ever-increasing quantities of coal to power steam engines steadily increased which became the primary demand for coal along with hime hearting (mid-19th century). Coal mining becme the primary industry of the of the South Wales Valleys. [Falkus and Gillingham] Economic cnditions caused some econmic migration to America. Richard Llewellyn beautiful novel, How Green is My Valley describes conditions in the coal fields. South Wales became the chief coal exporting region of the world (late-19th century). The region began to decline economically after World War I (1920s-30s). Welsh coal played an important role in World War II. The dependency of much of Europe on Welsh coal creted aerious problm for the Germns. The German conquered much of Europe. They had enough coal for their own industry, but not to effectively fuel the economies of the vast area they controlled--the NAZI Gro▀raum. They just could not replace the coal that the British had been supplying. This significantly impeded the NAZI ability to fully harness the economies of the occupid countries. After the War, Britain's new socialist Labour Government took ovr the iron and coal industry. For a few years they subsidized operations, keeping money-losing mines and factories open, but only by taxing other industries. Labour's focus was on saving existing indistries, nit in generating new industries and jobs from the new tchnologies developed during the War as merica was doing. Ironically mny of these new technologies had been developed by Britisg scientists. This was a factor in Britain's post-War decline.

Sources

Falkus, M. and J. Gillingham. Eds. Historical Atlas of Britain {London: Kingfisher, 1987).






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Created: 7:52 AM 12/9/2017
Last updated: 12:44 PM 12/9/2017