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Profits in their own Country

Until recently, almost everything written about the society created by the Welsh coal boom has focused on the workers and the unions. This talk will attempt to redress the balance a little, by examining the nature of the middle-class society created by the entrepreneurs – not only the coalowners, but also the railway contractors, the builders, the land speculators, the professionals, the shopkeepers and the wide variety of people, from far and wide, who had been attracted to the rich pickings in the Valleys. These entrepreneurs (in contrast to the iron and copper pioneers who had preceded them) were predominantly Welsh. By taking a number of specific examples of people and events, we will see something of the changing nature of that society, from the tough first-generation pioneers to the second-generation operators and their complicated networks of power and influence. It all ends with the ‘rush to the sea’ – to the towns on the coast – as the boom came to an end.

Professor Richard Griffiths

Richard Griffiths is Emeritus Professor of French, King’s College London. Born in Barry, Glamorgan, he was educated at Lancing College and King’s College, Cambridge. He has held Fellowships at Selwyn College Cambridge and Brasenose College Oxford, and Chairs and Headships of Department at University College Cardiff and King’s College London, and has published widely on French and British literature and political history. He has also served on the Welsh Arts Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the General Advisory Council of the BBC. Now living in Penarth in his retirement, he has turned to Welsh history, and recently published The Entrepreneurial Society of the Rhondda Valleys 1840-1920 (University of Wales Press 2010).

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