Transforming professional and public understanding of the Welsh overseas

Submitting Institution

Cardiff University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

Download original


Summary of the impact

Welsh migrants had a distinctive impact in the countries in which they settled, but their contribution remains unacknowledged in many academic or popular histories, be these of Wales or (for example) the USA. In addressing this lacuna, Jones's research on the Welsh diaspora has influenced public and professional understanding of the Welsh specifically in North America through directing the content of exhibitions, as well as professional practice in the heritage sector, and by engaging directly with a diverse range of audiences and professionals to enhance their understanding of the Welsh diaspora. As an advisor/collaborator with a range of media companies operating in both the English and Welsh languages, Jones's research has benefited productions across traditional and digital media platforms. His expertise is central to informing modern understandings of Welsh communities overseas and, thus, of the Welsh as a people with global horizons.

Underpinning research

This case study is underpinned by a research programme into global Welsh diasporas and migration undertaken by William Jones at Cardiff University since 1994 and supported by periods of university-funded research leave (1998-9; 2009-10); funding for research in the UK and overseas; investment in relevant library resources; and the research community of the Cardiff Centre for Welsh American Studies.

Jones's research began by examining the Welsh in the USA [3.1] but has extended to a study of the dynamics of global Welsh migration in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including case studies of Argentina (Patagonia), Australia, Chile and Mexico. Only by working towards a meaningful overview of the globality and diversity of Welsh overseas experiences is it possible to move away from static models of discrete immigrant communities unrealistically fixed in time and place. Jones's research replaces these static models with an understanding of how local, regional and continental contexts were interwoven in an unstable, contingent Welsh transnationality.

Jones's research on the Welsh press in America [3.2] and Australia [3.3], migrant letters [3.4], gender [3.5], and the interrelationships between Welsh communities in Australia and Latin America [3.6], has explored how a sense of Welsh transnationality developed, and how it is mistaken to see the process of emigration as marginal to the mainstream history of Wales during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In demonstrating how Welsh emigration was an experience that had cultural, demographic, economic and social impact, Jones's research reveals how Welsh identity changed as emigrants adapted to new cultures and how emigration literature, including commentaries in the press and letters, influenced migrants' perceptions of both Welsh identity and the societies in which they settled. In marking `a significant advance in analysis of immigrant and ethnic journalism' [Victorian Periodicals Review 36:3 (2003), 290], Jones's co-authored monograph [3.2] emphasised how particular visions of the `imagined community' that was `Wales in America' were nurtured through an engagement with the cultural life of the Welsh Americans and news from Wales. Welsh Reflections not only marked the first significant contribution to the history of the Welsh-American influence on the press, but also drew attention to how the language through which Welsh Americans understood their identities emphasised the diverse aspects of the Welsh immigrant experience. Jones's research revealed how emigrants related to their host societies and how they were integrated; how they wanted to be both recognised as Americans, but also wanted to be different, to be Welsh in their American-ness, to be American with qualifications, and to be understood on their own terms. Reviewers attest that one of the key strengths of Welsh Reflections is the sophisticated way in which the book conceptualises a renegotiation of Welshness through the history of Y Drych - The Mirror the oldest Welsh American newspaper in the US [Journal of Contemporary History 38:2 (2003), 330].

A key strength of Jones's research is its emphasis on Welsh-language sources to explore more thoroughly the changing patterns of language use among Welsh migrants and the migrants' own diverging constructions of Welsh identity. Throughout his published work, Jones has emphasised the diversity of Welsh migrant responses as they negotiated the social and cultural terms on which they settled in different parts of the world. As such it challenges deeply rooted assumptions that the experience of emigrating ethnic groups was homogeneous and adds an important transnational context to debates about the nature of Welsh national identity.

Overall, Jones's work is important for (a) having demonstrated the distinctiveness of the Welsh experience (as opposed to the `British') of migration, (b) for the fullness of its engagement with source materials and audiences (printed works and broadcast media) in appropriate languages (Welsh, English, Spanish), and (c) its insistence on the international connectedness of the Welsh diaspora. The most complete manifestation of its research impact is to be found in North America, notwithstanding continuing developments in both Australian and Latin American contexts.

References to the research

3.1 Jones, W (1998). `The Welsh Language and Welsh Identity in a Pennsylvanian Community', in Language and Community in the Nineteenth Century. A Social History of the Welsh Language, ed. Geraint H. Jenkins. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. pp. 261-286. ISBN: 9780708314678

3.2 Jones, A and Jones, W (2001). Welsh Reflections: Y Drych and America, 1851-2001. Ceredigion: Gomer Press. ISBN: 9781843230212

3.3 Jones, W (2006). `Representations of Australia in mid-nineteenth century Welsh emigrant literature: Gwlad yr Aur and Awstralia a'r Cloddfeydd Aur', Welsh History Review, 23:2, 51-74. ISSN: 0083-792X. Official URL:

3.4 Jones, W (2006). `"Going into Print": Published Immigrant Letters, Webs of Personal Relations, and the Emergence of the Welsh Public Sphere', in Letters Across Borders: the Epistolary Practices of International Migrants, ed. Bruce S. Elliott, David A. Gerber and Suzanne M. Sinke. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian. pp 175-199. ISBN: 9781403971012

3.5 Jones, W and Lewis, R (2007). `Gender and Transnationality among Welsh Tinplate Workers in Pittsburgh: The Hattie Williams Affair, 1895', Labor History 48.2: 175-194. ISSN: 0023-656X. Official URL:


3.6 James, E. W. and Jones, W (eds) (2009). Michael D. Jones a'i Wladfa Gymreig. Llanrwst: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. ISBN: 9781845272319

[All items available from the HEI]

Details of the impact

There are 2 million people of Welsh descent in North America, many avid consumers of Welshness, keen to know more of their history. Jones has been committed throughout his career to communicating his work to such audiences. His insights into the Welsh in North America have:

a) influenced public and professional understanding of the Welsh in North America by enhancing heritage presentation through a major touring exhibition, the `Welsh in America', and through accompanying workshops;

b) informed the content and production of programmes and productions on the Welsh in North America, Australia and South America across traditional and digital media platforms in the UK.

Enhancing heritage presentation and practice
Building on a long-standing collaboration with the Anthracite Heritage Museum (Scranton, Pennsylvania), Jones's research was central to the development of a touring exhibition on the `Welsh in America' (2009-11). His research informed the overarching interpretive framework of the exhibition and influenced the main themes explored - the Welsh in Pennsylvanian coalmining, patterns of emigration, identities - and the content of the exhibition and accompanying booklet [5.1]. The exhibition and booklet was organised by the Welsh Government in New York as part of its remit to showcase the very best that Wales' has to offer and increase Wales's international profile. Directed at Welsh societies, libraries, museums and cultural events, the touring exhibition raised awareness of the Welsh contribution to America as part of a programme to (a) enhance heritage tourism, and (b) appeal to people with Welsh ancestry unfamiliar with their roots who wish to explore their Welsh heritage further [5.2].

Launched in 2009 at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, the `Welsh in America' exhibition travelled to 8 US states and 16 sites. These included the main lobby of Syracuse Hancock International Airport, New York (with a throughput in excess of 200,000 passengers during the exhibition run Nov-Dec 2009), the Annual Global Expo 2010 at Houston, Texas, and the 2009 and 2010 annual North American Festival of Wales (NAFOW), the most important gathering of Welsh-Americans, which attracts 300-700 attendees [5.2]. The Anthracite Heritage Museum recorded that 4,555 visitors attended the exhibition between 1.3.2010 and 31.5.2010, while the Welsh Government distributed 200,000 booklets based on the exhibition [5.2]. Catrin Brace, head of marketing and public relations at the Welsh Government in New York, attested that `Dr Jones's research was key to determining the theme and content of the Wales in America exhibition...which reached audiences across the US and which provided an accurate and visually attractive account of the role played by the Welsh in America' and that within the target market there has been `a marked increase in awareness and knowledge of Wales' following the exhibition [5.2].

The exhibition underpinned a series of workshops in the US, extending the reach to a wider audience, through local history and cultural societies and public lectures in 5 US states between 2010 and 2012 as part of Women's History Month, the Welsh Heritage programme of the Anthracite Heritage Museum, and NAFOW 2012. Writing about Jones's keynote address as part of the March Charter Day programme at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, Chester Kulesa, Historic Site Administrator, attested `Dr Jones's presentation had a profound impact on those in attendance' [5.3]. Feedback from attendees, including curators, historians and teachers, related how their understanding had been transformed by Jones's contribution and how this would inform their professional practice [5.4]. Comments following Jones's talks at NAFOW 2012 illustrate how others involved in the heritage sector now present the story of emigration to visitors; for example, as part the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project in Wymore, Nebraska or the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, Scranton, Pennsylvania [5.4]. According to the executive officers of local Welsh history and cultural societies, including the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Centre and St David's Welsh Society of Minnesota, these workshops were vital to maintaining these societies and stimulating local and regional interest in Welsh History [5.5].

Jones's contribution has equally influenced the curatorial practice of heritage professionals at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, with Chester Kulesa stating that Jones's work was `of great importance to the board' as part of the Museum's `mission to engage the community and tell the story of the people of the Anthracite Region.' [5.3] According to Kulesa, Jones's work with the Museum has raised its US profile, and collaboration with Jones is now an essential part of the Museum's curatorial and programmatic stewardship related to the ethnic heritage of Scranton [5.3].

Informing media productions and representations of the Welsh in America
Jones's insights into the Welsh in America have also had an impact on a wide-range of media productions, including TV programmes and innovative digital platforms. TV and radio programmes to which Jones has advised on and contributed to include BBC1's The One Show (29 September 2011 - 3.99 million viewers, BBC One Wales The Story of Wales (19 March 2012 - 300,000 viewers; rescreened on BBC2 in October 2012 - 1.46 million viewers; winner of 2 BAFTA Wales awards), S4C's Wedi Saith (23 February, 2011 - 33,000 viewers), Perthyn (11 and 15 May 2011 - 26,000 viewers) and Sam Hughes: Cowboi Penfro (19 and 26 February 2012 - 27,000 viewers) and a range of programmes on BBC Radio Wales (e.g. Histories of Wales, February 2012) and BBC Radio Cymru (e.g. Rhaglen Dei Tomos February 2011). Jones's contribution has been central to the success of many these TV and radio projects. For example, independent TV production company Unigryw, in seeking to get audiences to `reconsider some of our ideas and preconceptions about the history of Wales' used Jones's research to make decisions about which individuals to include in a series on Welsh historical figures. Unigryw attested that Jones's work `was pivotal in S4C's decision to commission [a series of 6] programmes'. For Unigryw the series is `of great significance to us creatively and economically', with Unigryw attesting how Jones's sharing of his research has `had a serious, positive impact on a SME in Wales.' [5.6]

To enhance public understanding of the Welsh in America, Jones, in collaboration with BAFTA award-winning director Colin Thomas, has developed the content for The Dragon and the Eagle, which will form the focus for a new online cross-platform virtual book (`vook') combining video and text [5.8]. The vook makes use of second-screen technologies to allow users to interact with the content of TV programmes on another device (tablet or smartphone). The focus of The Dragon and the Eagle is to enable the reader to discover the story of the Welsh in America through a choice of routes: text with illustrations, videos summarising the content of chapters, primary sources interpreted in the text, and animated graphics whose maps and timelines illuminate the written material. Jones's research has been central to the content development of The Dragon and the Eagle and is benefiting small and medium enterprises in the creative industries (e.g. Gorilla Television Group) in Wales in developing new ways to communicate Welsh history and getting audiences to interact with the content [5.8].

Comparable examples of impact outside North America
The importance of Jones's research in generating debate about and understanding of the Welsh overseas and his standing as an authority on the history of Welsh overseas is manifest in other contexts. His research on the Welsh in Australia informed the BBC One Wales programme Wales in Australia presented by Huw Edwards (23 July 2013: 172,000 viewers) [5.8], and the 3-part ITV Wales / Foxtel, History Channel Australia collaboration Royal Wreck of Gold (24 & 30 July 2013: 274,00 viewers), a Welsh language version Trysor Coll Y Royal Charter appearing on S4C on 17, 24 and 30 July: 28,000 viewers). In 2010 he was appointed a founding member of Pwyllgor Dathlu 150 (the Wales-Patagonia 150th anniversary celebrations steering committee), which is coordinating cultural and educational activity in advance of the 2015 anniversary of the founding of the Welsh colony in Patagonia [5.7].

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 Welsh Government Exhibition Booklet for "Welsh In America" confirming Jones's contribution (01/06/2010).

5.2 Testimonials from the head of marketing and public relations, Office of the First Minister Welsh Government in New York, corroborating Jones's key input to theme and content of the `Welsh in America' exhibition and the Welsh Government's assessment of how the exhibition has enhanced awareness and knowledge of Wales in the US. (01/04/2013; 12/08/2013).

5.3 Testimonial from the Historic Site Administrator, Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum on the impact of Jones's research on Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum, its community engagement and curatorial practice. (30/04/2010).

5.4 Feedback forms corroborating how those involved in the heritage sector now present the story of emigration to visitors following Jones's talks at NAFOW 2012. (August 2012).

5.5 Testimonial from the former president of the St David's Society of Minnesota on how Jones's research has stimulated local and regional interest in Welsh History. (09/04/2010).

5.6 Testimonial from the Producer, Unigryw, on the impact of Jones's research in the development and commissioning of a series of 6 programmes for S4C on historic Welsh figures. (17/04/2013).

5.7 Information from Cymdeithas Cymru-Ariannin ( on planning Pwyllgor Dathlu 150 and Jones's involvement (05/2010 to present).

Individuals who can be contacted to corroborate impact

5.8 Contact Details. TV producer and writer who can corroborate the importance of Jones's research and contribution to the development of The Dragon and the Eagle

[All documents, feedback, and testimonies are available as PDFs from the HEI on request]