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Welsh History Review


Vol. 15, nos. 1-4 1990-91

Rebecca's children : a study of rural society, crime and protest. Book review.

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J. V. Jones. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1989. Pp. xiii, 423.  40.00.
In this excellent book, David Jones takes the Rebecca disorders of the period 1839
to 1843 as a way into an exploration of the three counties of south-west Wales in the
first half of the nineteenth century. This was a sparsely populated land and though
much of that which could be farmed was in the hands of great landowners, it was
mostly worked as small farms of less than seventy-five acres by families with one or
two helpers. The traditional view is that this area of Wales was loyal, religious and
virtually crime-free and that Rebecca and her followers were primarily concerned
with iniquitous toll charges on the main roads linking towns and providing access to
the quarrying and mining districts. Once the turnpike trusts which adminstered these
roads had made concessions, the noble Welsh peasant ceased his disorderly conduct;
the more violent disorders, involving arson, animal maiming, cutting down trees,
smashing fences and weirs, as well as physical assaults and even murder, were
symptomatic of a degeneration of the Rebecca movement as outsiders, criminals and
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