'Glencoe of Welsh history' is published online

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The Independent Online

When three members of the English establishment conducted a fact-finding tour of Wales in the middle of the 19th century, they didn't like what they saw.

Their report to Parliament noted that the "filthy" natives inhabited towns and villages knee-high in stinking dung heaps. Married and non-married couples alike slept crammed into one-room hovels alongside their pigs and poultry. "Petty thefts, lying, cozening, every species of chicanery, drunkenness and idleness prevailed," they opined.

Worst of all, the locals spoke Welsh not English, didn't go to school and refused to pray at the Anglican churches. It was the Victorian gentlemen's worst nightmare.

RRW Lingen's 1847 report to the Government became known as the Blue Books, and marked a defining moment in Anglo-Welsh relations - "the Glencoe and the Amritsar of Welsh history". Their original manuscript is now being published on-line for the first time by the National Library in Aberystwyth.

Lyn Lewis Dafis, a curator at the Library believes the documents provide a crucial insight into modern Wales. "People believe it caused feelings of inferiority and made them want to be English rather than Welsh. It is seen as an attack on the Welsh in general and the Welsh language in particular," he said.

The report was the brainchild of Welshman, William Williams, MP for Coventry. It came amid a wave of unrest throughout Britain. The violence in Wales caused particular alarm in London especially reports of Chartist riots and the notorious Daughters of Rebecca, men dressed as women who attacked turnpike trusts.

Mr Williams believed lack of education was the cause of the violence. The three commissioners concluded - "Teach English and bigotry shall be banished". But Mr Dafis says the report's methodology was flawed. "The commissioners took most of their information from Anglican clergymen based in Wales. The non-conformist majority were the opposition, they were the enemy."

Dafydd Lewis of the Welsh Language Society said the Blue Books were accepted by senior Welsh figures, like non-conformist ministers and schoolteachers. "It gave many prominent people an inferiority complex and for the next century Welsh education was carried out in English," he said.

Plaid Cymru's education spokesman, Janet Ryder, said the English still harboured "hidden intolerance" toward the Welsh. "In England there is still a little bit of a failure to understand a culture that is different. They think 'what is the point of speaking Welsh - why can't you speak English?'"