How liberalism assimilates minorities

The failure to develop a Welsh national movement in the nineteenth century


  • Simon Brooks


In the nineteenth century, Wales contained all the necessary building blocks for the development of a successful ethnolinguistic nationalism on the European pattern. However, no serious nationalist movement emerged, and that nationalism which did develop was civic rather than linguistic in nature. This course of events is explained by the unusual nature of the British state, and the development of ideologies within it. Britain was a liberal state, and Wales was the most liberal part of Britain. The emphasis of liberalism on personal advancement and individual emancipation came at the expense of communitarian loyalties. Inevitably, this undermined the idea of nation as an intellectual concept. Welsh radicals argued in sincerity for social justice, but justice could only be achieved on the basis of a common citizenship, which was shared with all in the British Isles and defined by the English language. Because of the liberal emphasis on shared civic space and cultural universalism, the Welsh attachment to radical politics led to cultural assimilation.

Author Biography

Simon Brooks

Dr. Simon Brooks is a Senior Research Officer at Swansea University, where he is editor of the Welsh-language encyclopaedia for literary and cultural theory, Termiadur Beirniadaeth a Theori Lenyddol. Previously lecturer in Welsh at Cardiff University, Dr. Brooks is the author of several monographs, including O dan lygaid y Gestapo (Under the eyes of the Gestapo), 2004 and Pam na fu Cymru (Why Wales never was), 2015, both published by the University of Wales Press. His co-edited volume of essays, Pa beth yr aethoch allan iw achub? (What did you go out to save?), 2013 is a definitive study of language ideologies in 21st-century Wales. He is also general editor of the University of Wales series of intellectual biographies, Dawn Dweud.



How to Cite

Brooks, S. (2014). How liberalism assimilates minorities: The failure to develop a Welsh national movement in the nineteenth century. Studies on National Movements (SNM), 2. Retrieved from