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Contemporary Wales
Contemporary Wales

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2.1 The regions of Wales

2.1.1 One Wales or many?

Attachment to place and a strong sense of local belonging are said to be among the distinctive characteristics of Welsh people. This is because although Wales has the qualities of smallness and intimacy, it has developed in ways which foster variety and uniqueness. It has a population of almost 3 million people, a large proportion of whom continue to live in small towns and villages. It is divided and separated both geographically, by hills and mountains which even today hinder communication between all parts of the country, and by historical developments which created marked divisions between rural and industrial Wales, and between those parts of Wales that were Welsh-speaking, or more anglicised. Although with globalisation [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and integration these differences are fading, they leave a legacy of ideas and thought which help us to understand contemporary life, and provide an influential backdrop to a good deal of recent policy and decision making.

Eminent writers as different in their attitudes towards Wales and Welshness as the novelist and critic Raymond Williams and the poet R. S. Thomas agree in giving importance to people rooted in their local landscape, and its history, and in the social relationships they have with the others who live around them. Williams has written of the neighbourly environment in which he was formed as a child, which gave him his lifelong concern with the possibilities of human warmth and association in the small community, where people are familiar with and grow to really know one another. Thomas has captured the closeness of Welsh country people to the land and its natural environment, and to the culture and way of life with which it is identified. Social scientists writing about Wales have shared this fascination with the exceptional importance of locality and community, and the sense of belonging to a particular place.