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In 1891, the first census of population to supply information on the Welsh language was undertaken. It showed that 54% of people in Wales could speak Welsh. By 1911, this figure had fallen to 40%.

Within the South Wales Coalfield, these figures were generally lower. For example, in Glamorgan in 1891, although 80% of the county's population was Welsh, only 49% spoke Welsh. This had fallen to 38% in 1911 with the Welsh speaking population being from the older age groups. Immigration from outside Wales into the Coalfield was a major factor in the decline of the number of people speaking the Welsh language. In 1911, more than half the population was born outside Wales or born to at least one non-Welsh parent. Even so, vast numbers of Welsh speakers from more rural parts of Wales moved to the South Wales Coalfield in search of work. Historians suggest that had this not happened, these people would have left Wales altogether and the Welsh Language would have faced a more marked decline. 

In the West Wales anthracite area of the South Wales Coalfield, the number of people speaking the Welsh language did not decline at the same rates as other parts of the coalfield: Welsh continued to be the language used in all aspects of life.



Davies, Janet. The Welsh Language. (Cardiff, 1993).

Hume, Ian and Pryce, W.T.R. (Eds) The Welsh and their country: selected readings in the social sciences. (Gomer Press, 1986).

Jenkins, H. Geraint. Language and Community in the nineteenth century . (Cardiff, 1998).

Jenkins, H. Geraint. The Welsh Language before the Industrial Revolution. (Cardiff, 1997).

Jones, Dot. Statistical evidence relating to the Welsh Language 1801-1911. (Cardiff, 1998).

Morgan, Gerald. The dragon`s tongue: the fortunes of the Welsh Language. (Cardiff, 1966).

All items listed in the further reading are available for consultation in either the South Wales Miners’ Library or the Library and Information Centre, University of Wales Swansea. Click here to link to the library catalogue. 


 Ymgyrchu! The Welsh Language Society and Welsh Language Act.



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