Dr John Davies

Elected: 2011

Area(s): Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Specialist Subject(s): History

Dr John Davies began lecturing history at Swansea University in 1963, and remained at the university until the early 1970s. It was during this time he was instrumental in the establishment of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society). As the first secretary for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, he helped co-ordinate the language campaigners’ first protest in 1963 on Trefechan Bridge in Aberystwyth.

An author, broadcaster and educator, Dr Davies was one of the leading historians of his generation, and is primarily recognised as the author of Hanes Cymru (A History of Wales). First published in Welsh in 1990, Hanes Cymru is a pioneering and authoritative volume that many consider to be the definitive work on Welsh history. It was later translated into English and published in 1993, with both editions revised in 2007. Dr Davies also co-edited The Encyclopaedia of Wales.

Born in Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley, Dr Davies and his family moved from Llwynypia to Bwlchllan in Ceredigion at the end of the Second World War, and hence was affectionately known by many as John Bwllchllan. He received his education in schools at Treorchy, Bwlchllan and Tregaron before attending University College Cardiff and Trinity College Cambridge. Having completed research on the family links of the Bute family with the city of Cardiff, he was later appointed lecturer at Swansea University.

In the early 1970s, Dr Davies moved to Aberystwyth where he lectured, mainly through the medium of Welsh, at the Department of History and Welsh History. As well as his academic career, Dr Davies was also a popular warden for many years, overseeing the student population of the Neuadd Pantycelyn halls of residence at Aberystwyth University.

Emeritus Professor Prys Morgan, said: “John Davies was the first person to comprehensively chronicle the entire history of Wales, and did so through the medium of Welsh; a practice with which he continued throughout his career.

“During our time together at Swansea University, he ignited my interest in Welsh history through his infectious passion for Wales and its great history. He will be remembered as a genial and convivial character, and as one of our great historians who leaves behind an indispensable legacy”.