First Advisor

John Ott

Term of Graduation

Summer 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Wales -- History -- 1063-1284, Welsh poetry -- To 1550 -- History and criticism, Welsh literature -- To 1500 -- History and criticism, Wales -- Kings and rulers – History, Wales -- Politics and government, Wales -- Intellectual life -- To 1500, Bards and bardism



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 100 pages)


Wales in the Middle Ages was a region both divided by war and united by culture. Frequent raids from the Hiberno-Irish, Scandinavians, and Flemish threatened Wales from the outside, while the kings within the borders of Wales fought for supremacy. During the late eleventh century, William the Conqueror made his way to the Welsh border in an attempt to secure his fledging kingdom. Under the premise of protecting his borders, William established the first March of Wales on the eastern border of Wales in 1087. This started the slow process of Anglo-Norman expansion and colonization into Wales.

The Welsh maintained a strong warrior culture and frequently raided the Marches, while the violence between the princes continued as well. The Welsh also maintained a strong bardic culture through the Middle Ages, and poets were held in high regard in the princes' courts. These poets were a strong influence on the Welsh princes and encouraged them to fight against the Marcher lords. Poets would often encourage raiding into the March by writing poems to celebrate Anglo-Norman losses and Welsh victories. The poetry and stories written down during the Middle Ages in Wales stressed the value of warrior honor; many heroes die in battle.

This paper relates the ideas of a shared mythic past, military strength, and honor with the Welsh fight to remain independent during the Middle Ages, by showing the considerable influence the literature of Wales had on the behavior of Welsh princes. In fact, Welsh literature was a significant component in the violence of medieval Wales, and not a symptom. The emphasis on violence and strong warriors in the poetry and stories of medieval Wales encouraged the princes to raid the Marches in an attempt to keep Wales independent. The bardic culture unified Wales as one people by giving them shared traditions and a shared mythic past, while encouraging strong warrior princes. This paper will utilize the annals Brut y Tywysogion, the literature of the Mabinogi, The Gododdin, and Welsh court poetry.


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