ASNC MPhil student Rebecca Thomas writes:
The journey may have been somewhat tedious, and the sky menacingly dark on arrival, but such trivial matters were soon forgotten in face of a fantastic weekend of papers on medieval Wales, spanning the fields of history, literature and archaeology. Opening proceedings with the J. E. Lloyd lecture was Dr David Stephenson, examining ‘Empires in Wales: from Gruffudd ap Llywelyn to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd’. Despite paying tribute to him as one of the greatest historians of medieval Wales, Stephenson nonetheless sought to deconstruct Lloyd’s narrative through demonstrating the complexity of power relations in the ‘age of Princes’. His stimulating lecture pinpointed many avenues for future research, raising questions over the articulation of power, presentation of rulers, and ideological control.
On Saturday morning Dr Alex Woolf attempted to relocate Gwynedd. Using a mixture of inscriptions and evidence from the Historia Brittonum he argued for the moving of the heartland of Gwynedd eastwards, in a paper which left many pondering the implications of his alternative map of Wales over their coffee. Dr Sue Johns and Dr Emma Cavell broached questions of identity and perception, with the former examining the way seals were used by noblemen and women to convey identity, and the latter looking at later depictions of Matilda de St Valery as a giantess and witch by the Welsh. An introduction to the ‘Seintiau Cymru’ project by Dr David Parsons drew morning proceedings to a close.
As tempting as it was to linger over lunch, the afternoon promised to be as stimulating as the morning, with papers covering homage (Philip Fernandes), Welsh law (Dr Sara Elin Roberts), education (Dr Rhun Emlyn) and chronicles (Georgia Henley and Dr Owain Wyn Jones). In an exceptional analysis of the poetry of Llywarch Brydydd y Moch to Llywelyn ab Iorweth and Rhys Gryg, Dr Rhian Andrews examined the role of the poet as an ambassador, deconstructing every line of the poetry and placing it in its historical context. Her analysis of the purpose of the poetry was fascinating, and her readings of the Canu i Rys Gryg so powerful and convincing as to recreate Rhys Gryg’s court in the Sir Ifor Williams Room in Bangor.
An early start on Sunday morning saw two different approaches to the study of places, with Dr Philip Dunshea discussing the meaning of ‘Eidyn’ in insular texts, whilst Paul Watkins deconstructed charter evidence in an attempt to locate the land of the Abbey of Pendar in Senghennydd. After a paper by Richard Suggett concluding that the high status hall was re-created in the peasant household, Professor Tim Thornton brought proceedings to a close and dragged us forward to the early modern period in an examination of English historiographies of medieval Wales.
The breadth and depth of the papers on offer at the Seventh Bangor Colloquium on Medieval Wales was truly astonishing, and whilst Professor Ralph Griffiths joked that the organisers (Professor Huw Pryce and Dr Euryn Rhys Roberts) would not want to start thinking about the eighth colloquium for some time, I for one would already like the date for my diary.