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Welsh History Review


Vol. 9, nos. 1-4 1978-79

A history of the Church in Wales : Book review.

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with trenchancy and wit. It is not, however, likely to commend itself to
those who follow the romantic school of history; there are no heroes in
this account, though there are many victims. Indeed, the most lasting im-
pression left by Dr. Phillips is what a wretched affair the whole thing was.
There was little malignancy, but short-sightedness and self-deception on
all sides. The miners themselves had no constructive views of the mining
industry and their leaders were inept and foolhardy. The extent of their
ineptitude made (for this reader) painful reading. At the same time, the
owners were blockheaded and almost suicidal. The folly of the two prin-
cipals makes the folly of the supporting antagonists-the T.U.C. and the
government-hardly less astonishing. Of the two, the T.U.C. was the less
irresponsible: it, at least, thought seriously about the mining industry. But
it allowed itself to slide into the general strike without real forethought and
then to slide out of it in a manner which was certain to cause disappoint-
ment or anger. The government's behaviour was at best frivolous, though
it displayed an entirely negative determination absent in other quarters.
Dr. Phillips effectively disposes of the 'moderate' Baldwin swept along by
'violents' like Churchill and Birkenhead. On the contrary, Baldwin was
always in command and his reputation needs to be suitably tarnished.
The details of the strike and its immediate origins are excellently treated,
but its organization tends to distort the book's balance. It is certainly
difficult to impose coherence upon such a chaotic and fragmental event,
but the argument hops about in a way sometimes difficult to follow. That
means that Dr. Phillips has had to compress several of his most important
propositions. Three in particular are so interesting that they need
elaboration. First, that the strike was an 'echo of the class war' and merely
interrupted a period of steadily declining industrial militancy. Second, that
the relative industrial harmony of the inter-war years was due to the
prudence and good sence of the employers-I still need to be convinced.
Third, that at no time did the government ever seriously contemplate an
'attack' on the living standards of the working class. I agree with that, but
it requires to be established if only to deal with one piece of folklore: that
the government had to defeat both the miners and the T.U.C. in order to
force down British labour costs after the return to gold in 1925. None of
these reservations, however, undermined my admiration for Dr. Phillips's
St. John's College,
A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN WALES. Edited by David Walker. Church in
Wales Publications, 1976. Pp. xv, 221. £ 2.75 (hardback).
This collection of essays has a great deal to offer to students of ecclesias-
tical history generally as well as to those interested in the Welsh church,
but before one comes to its merits it is necessary to express a note of regret
about the overall design. The book covers the whole Christian community
in Wales up to about 1700, but thereafter it concentrates upon only one
denomination. As theology this is strange and as history it is unfortunate,
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