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History of the Press

Our organisation, akin to many other national institutions, emerged during a pivotal period in recent history. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many European nations sought independence and greater self-determination. Wales was no exception.

The political and intellectual debates of the period were very much centred on the concept of national identity and, perhaps unsurprisingly, corresponded to a renaissance in Welsh literature and Welsh-language publications. The desire for national institutions that reinforced the cultural and political life of a self-defining nation led to the formation of a number of national bodies, among them the University of Wales.

In 1918 Lord Haldane’s Royal Commission on the University of Wales recommended the establishment of a university press, “[to] serve as a strong link between the University and the Welsh people, and … give opportunities and much needed encouragement to students both within and without the University.”

The Press was founded in 1922 and, from its inception, it has been part of a much broader national endeavour supporting the notion that education is pivotal to the establishment of a sense of nationhood in Wales. UWP was founded to offer structure and expertise in publishing, especially but not exclusively to Welsh-language scholarship, which up until 1922 had been confined to the margins of academic activity.

UWP was originally closely aligned with the work of her sister organisation, the Board of Celtic Studies, the establishment of which had also been recommended by Haldane, and this newly coordinated effort put academic research in Wales on a sound footing in terms of both scholarly research and its subsequent publication.

Due to the specialist field of interest in titles relating to Wales, it was recognised by the Press’s founders that its publishing programme could not be self-funding and, as part of its broader cultural and national mission to further knowledge and understanding about Wales, the Press would therefore be subsidised by the University of Wales. The University has made such funding available to UWP for over 90 years, safeguarding our cultural contribution to Wales and to the wider academic community, and allowing us to uphold our central mission to publish works of scholarly, intellectual or creative merit.

Among the many publications that embody the Press’s endeavours is Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, the University of Wales dictionary of the Welsh language, an ongoing project that by its very nature transcends the commercial realities that would otherwise surround such a project; UWP is immensely proud and privileged to be its publisher. Since 1922, the Press’s mission has ensured publication of some of Wales’s core cultural writings, edited by famous names in Welsh cultural life, and made available to a reading public: The Poetical Works of Dafydd Nanmor (1923); Gwaith Tudur Aled (1926); Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi (1930); Canu Aneirin (1938); Gwaith Dafydd ap Gwilym (1952); Trioedd Ynys Prydein (1961); Gweithiau Pantycelyn (1964), Cerddi Dafydd ap Gwilym (2010), to name but a few. The important medieval manuscript collections of The Hendregadredd Manuscript (1933), The White Book of Rhydderch (1973) and The Black Book of Carmarthen (1982) have become available to a wide readership, as have the extensive critical studies of the history, prose and poetry of Wales published by UWP.

UWP has a close and productive working relationship with the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, based in Aberystwyth, a relationship that has seen the publication of a number of landmark series that represent the highest level research in the field of Welsh Studies, including The Visual Culture of Wales; lolo Morganwg and the Romantic Tradition of Wales; and, most recently, the series Wales and the French Revolution.

Contributing to the structured and professional development of Welsh studies, and furthering the learning and understanding about the unique culture, language, history and heritage of Wales, continues today. Among the distinguished established series that UWP now publishes are Writing Wales in English, Dawn Dweud, Writers of Wales, Studies in Welsh History, Y Meddwl a’r Dychymyg Cymreig and the newer series Gender Studies in Wales and The Public Law of Wales, all of which are a reflection of a now broad publishing spectrum. UWP’s journals further provide a grounded academic outlet for work focused specifically on Wales and its distinct political, social and educational landscape.

Beyond the immediate, UWP’s specialist subject areas include history and medieval studies; French, Hispanic, Lusophone and German studies; literary criticism; politics; philosophy; media and cultural studies; and we collaborate with an international range of authors from institutions worldwide. Critically acclaimed series that develop and participate in discourse across a wide range of subject areas in the arts and humanities include Political Philosophy Now; Gothic Literary Studies; French & Francophone Studies; and Religion & Culture in the Middle Ages.

The dissemination of scholarly research for a wider readership is central to our mission, and our editors work closely with authors in the transmission of that research and knowledge from academia into engaging books for specialist and general readers alike. This core author partnership has been fostered by each of the directors since the first was appointed to the Press in 1969, and has been chronicled in important reference publications in both Welsh and English, perhaps most notably The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary (1995), The New Companion to the Literature of Wales (1998), and the monumental achievement of The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales (2008).

Since UWP was founded in 1922, it has published over 3,500 titles, and at present publishes around 70 titles a year. Since 2009, our e-book publication list has risen to around 250 currently available digital editions. With more than 800 titles in print and via our strategic partnerships with the University of Chicago Press, the Welsh Books Council and other key distributors, we have an effective worldwide distribution network for all our publications.