John Davies (historian)

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John Davies
John Davies (historian).jpg
Born25 April 1938
Died16 February 2015 (aged 76) [1]
Education University College, Cardiff
Trinity College, Cambridge.
Occupation Historian

John Davies, FLSW (25 April 1938 – 16 February 2015) was a Welsh historian, and a television and radio broadcaster. He attended university at Cardiff and Cambridge and taught Welsh at Aberystwyth. He wrote a number of books on Welsh history, including A History of Wales (Hanes Cymru in Welsh).



Davies was born in the Rhondda, Wales, [2] and studied at both University College, Cardiff, and Trinity College, Cambridge.

Life and work

Davies was married with four children. In later life he acknowledged that he was bisexual. [3] After teaching Welsh history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, he retired to Cardiff, and appeared frequently as a presenter and contributor to history programmes on television and radio.

In the mid-1980s, Davies was commissioned to write a concise history of Wales by Penguin Books to add to its Pelican series of the histories of nations. The decision by Penguin to commission the volume in Welsh was "unexpected and highly commendable," wrote Davies. The Welsh version is titled Hanes Cymru , whilst the English version is titled A History of Wales . [4] [5]

"I seized the opportunity to write of Wales and the Welsh. When I had finished, I had a typescript which was almost three times larger than the original commission," wrote Davies. [4] The original voluminous typescript was first published in hardback under the Allen Lane imprint. Davies took a sabbatical from his post at the University College of Wales and wrote most of the chapters while touring Europe. [4] Davies dedicated Hanes Cymru to his wife, Janet Mackenzie Davies. [4]

Hanes Cymru was translated into English and published in 1993, as there was "a demand among English-speakers to read what was already available to Welsh-speakers," wrote Davies. [4] A revised edition was published (in both languages) in 2007.

In 2005, Davies received the Glyndŵr Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales during the Machynlleth Festival. He won the 2010 Wales Book of the Year for Cymru: Y 100 lle i'w gweld cyn marw.

In 2011, Davies was elected as a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. [6]

Davies lived in Grangetown, Cardiff. To mark his 75th birthday in 2013, the Welsh language television channel S4C broadcast a programme, Gwirionedd y Galon: Dr John Davies, about his life and his home [7] and in 2014 published his autobiography in Welsh.

Davies died at the age of 76 in 2015 [8] and, as a tribute to his longstanding friend, Jon Gower republished Davies' autobiography in English. [9]


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  1. Meic Stephens (19 February 2015). "John Davies: Academic and broadcaster whose peerless histories of Wales were rich with insight and fascinating detail". The Independent. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. BBC Wales Profile of John Davies. Accessed 14 April 2013
  3. "John Davies: Academic and broadcaster whose peerless histories of". The Independent. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 A History of Wales, Preface
  5. "BBC - Cymru'r Byd - Llyfrau". Retrieved 25 February 2023.
  6. Wales, The Learned Society of. "John Davies ob. 16 February 2015". The Learned Society of Wales. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  7. Gwirionedd y Galon: Dr John Davies – Historian Dr John Davies speaks from the heart on S4C, S4C Factual ( Retrieved 12 January 2014
  8. "Historian and BBC commentator John Davies dies aged 76". BBC News. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  9. "Autobiography celebrates life of 'one of the most influential Welshmen of our era'". Wales online. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 17 December 2015.