The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Promoting the language, literature, arts and science of Wales

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home > Ben Bowen Thomas, Wales, and UNESCO

Ben Bowen Thomas, Wales, and UNESCO

April 20, 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
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All are welcome to join this talk, which will be live and with questions.

Ben Bowen Thomas was one of the most influential Welsh adult educators and civil servants of the twentieth century. He was very well-known among those who, like himself, were prominent civil servants but perhaps less well known to the Welsh public generally. Thomas’ early career was given to adult education in Wales, an important social, cultural, as well as educational movement in the first half of the century. Warden of Coleg Harlech (1927-1940) and Director of Extra-Mural Studies, University College, Aberystwyth (1940-1941), he was seconded to the Ministry of Labour and National Service in Wales, beginning a civil service career in which he became Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Department, Ministry of Education (1945–63). This lecture examines Thomas’ contribution to international educational and cultural development in the light of this experience; and through his long association with UNESCO after 1946 in which he became Chair of its Executive Board (1958- 1960). This was a period of post-war reconstruction in a divided Europe riven by the competing ideologies of communist state socialism and capitalist parliamentary democracy. It also saw a retreat from imperialism and the emergence of post-colonial non-aligned countries. UNESCO reflected these tensions and received severe criticism notably from the United States for its allegedly pro-Soviet and anti-Western bias. Thomas was knighted in 1950, was a member of the Commission on the Constitution (1969–73), and was awarded the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion Medal (1976).

Professor W. John Morgan
Professor Emeritus, University of Nottingham; Honorary Professor, School of Social Sciences, and Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow, Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, and Data, Cardiff University.

Chaired by Sian Reid, Honorary Secretary