John Davies (historian)

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John Davies
John Davies (historian).jpg
Born25 April 1938
Died16 February 2015 (aged 76)[1]
EducationUniversity College, Cardiff
Trinity College, Cambridge.

John Davies (25 April 1938 – 16 February 2015) was a Welsh historian, and a television and radio broadcaster. He attended university at Cardiff and Cambridge and taught Welsh at Aberystwyth. He wrote a number of books on Welsh history.


Davies was born in the Rhondda, Wales,[2] and studied at both University College, Cardiff, and Trinity College, Cambridge.

Life and work[edit]

Davies was married with four children. In later life he acknowledged that he was bisexual.[3] After teaching Welsh history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, he retired to Cardiff, and appeared frequently as a presenter and contributor to history programmes on television and radio.

In the mid-1980s, Davies was commissioned to write a concise history of Wales by Penguin Books to add to its Pelican series of the histories of nations. The decision by Penguin to commission the volume in Welsh was "unexpected and highly commendable," wrote Davies.[4]

"I seized the opportunity to write of Wales and the Welsh. When I had finished, I had a typescript which was almost three times larger than the original commission," wrote Davies.[4] The original voluminous typescript was first published in hardback under the Allen Lane imprint. Davies took a sabbatical from his post at the University College of Wales and wrote most of the chapters while touring Europe.[4] Davies dedicated Hanes Cymru to his wife, Janet Mackenzie Davies.[4]

Hanes Cymru was translated into English and published in 1993, as there was "a demand among English-speakers to read what was already available to Welsh-speakers," wrote Davies.[4] A revised edition was published (in both languages) in 2007.

In 2005, Davies received the Glyndŵr Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales during the Machynlleth Festival. He won the 2010 Wales Book of the Year for Cymru: Y 100 lle i'w gweld cyn marw.

Davies lived in Grangetown, Cardiff. To mark his 75th birthday in 2013, the Welsh language television channel S4C broadcast a programme, Gwirionedd y Galon: Dr John Davies, about his life and his home[5] and in 2014 published his autobiography in Welsh.

Davies died at the age of 76 in 2015 [6] and, as a tribute to his longstanding friend, Jon Gower republished Davies' autobiography in English.[7]


  • Cardiff and the Marquesses of Bute, (Writers of Wales), University of Wales Press, January 1980, ISBN 0-7083-0761-2
  • A History of Wales, Penguin, 1994, ISBN 0-14-014581-8 (Revised edition 2007, ISBN 0-14-028475-3)
  • Broadcasting and the BBC in Wales, University of Wales Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0708312735
  • The Making of Wales, The History Press, 2nd edition printing: Oct 1, 2009, ISBN 0-7524-5241-X
  • The Celts, Cassell & Co, 2000 ISBN 0-304-35590-9
  • The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales, University of Wales Press, April 17, 2008, ISBN 0-7083-1953-X
  • Wales: 100 Places to See Before You Die (with Marian Delyth), Y Lolfa, 2010, ISBN 978-1847713087
  • Fy Hanes I: Hunangofiant (autobiography in Welsh), Y Lolfa, 2014, ISBN 978-1847719850
  • A Life in History (autobiography translated into English by Jon Gower), Y Lolfa, 2015, ISBN 978-1784612177


  1. ^ Meic Stephens (19 February 2015). "John Davies: Academic and broadcaster whose peerless histories of Wales were rich with insight and fascinating detail". The Independent. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. ^ BBC Wales Profile of John Davies. Accessed 14 April 2013
  3. ^ "John Davies: Academic and broadcaster whose peerless histories of". The Independent. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e A History of Wales, Preface
  5. ^ Gwirionedd y Galon: Dr John Davies – Historian Dr John Davies speaks from the heart on S4C, S4C Factual ( Retrieved 12 January 2014
  6. ^ "Historian and BBC commentator John Davies dies aged 76". BBC News. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Autobiography celebrates life of 'one of the most influential Welshmen of our era'". Wales online. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 17 December 2015.