Towards Modern Nationhood

Wales and Slovenia in Comparison, c. 1750-1918

Author(s) Robin Okey

Language: English

Genre(s): History

  • November 2023 · 344 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Paperback - 9781786839312
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781786839329
  • · eBook - epub - 9781786839336

About The Book

This book is a pioneering comparison of Wales with another small people, the Slovenes, over the formative period for national development in modern Europe. Language, religion and social conflict figured in both countries, but the determinant issue for national mobilisation was language equality for Slovene speakers, and religious equality for Welsh Nonconformists. Both options reflected their respective state contexts: the Habsburg empire’s acceptance of public multilingualism, and the religious pluralism long crucial in the British isles. British economic power, shown in the dramatic industrialisation of south Wales, strengthened a Welsh profile; relative Habsburg weakness detracted from Slovene language progress. The wartime premiership of a Welsh-speaking Nonconformist, Lloyd George, was no fluke – language-orientated East European scepticism about Welsh nationhood overlooks this context. The Welsh process was indeed more diffuse than the Slovene, involving the dual assimilation of immigrant workers to Welsh nationality, but also, less completely, Welsh language loss. The stories of Wales and Slovenia fascinate in themselves. They suggest, too, that alongside the ‘hard power’ of larger units, the ‘soft power’ of smaller communities’ traditions, linguistic, religious or other, is also a vital historical factor.


‘An astonishing book that argues, despite much noise to the contrary, that Wales was, is and will be a nation. However, the way it became a nation differed from the continental European model, and by comparing Wales with Slovenia, Robin Okey shows that while nationalism is a singular noun it is indeed a plural experience.’
Dr Simon Brooks, Swansea University

‘This is a brilliantly original analysis of the formation of the modern Welsh nation during the long nineteenth century. Okey presents this process in a sustained comparison with another small ethnic group, the Slovenes, and vindicates that choice by illumination of a series of similarities based on his intimate acquaintance with the history of that South Slav people. There are differences too – above all the Welsh national project, expressed through religious Nonconformity and political Liberalism as the willing associate of a hegemonic and officially monoglot Great Britain, contrasting with the Slovene equivalent which manoeuvred within the troubled multilingual polity of the Habsburgs. Enhanced by Okey’s jargon-free style, this book is equally revealing in its unusual perspective on the two incongruent empires, British and Austrian, within which his story unfolds.’
Emeritus Regius Professor Robert Evans, University of Oxford


Chapter 1 – Wales and the Slovene Lands: The Background
Chapter 2 – Awakenings, c. 1750-1815
Chapter 3 – Towards a Turning Point, Wales and Slovenia c. 1815-1847
Chapter 4 – The Parting of the Ways:1847-48
Chapter 5 – The Picture Takes Shape, 1848-c. 1880
Chapter 6 – The National Movements Mature: Success and Shortfall
Chapter 7 – Culture, Consciousness and Challenge, 1880-1914
Chapter 8 – New Directions and Denoument

About the Author(s)

Author(s): Robin Okey

Robin Okey is Emeritus Professor at the University of Warwick.

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