Wales was once an independent, though rarely unified, nation with a strong Celtic tradition, but in the decades following the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the nation fell increasingly under the jurisdiction of England. At first, it was ruled in part as a separate country, but rebellion by Prince Owain Glyndŵr (considered in modern times as the ‘Father of Welsh nationalism’) saw further incremental incorporation into England. Henry VII brought Wales into the English systems of laws and of parliamentary representation through the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542.
Prior to the industrial revolution, Wales was a sparsely populated country dependent on local agricultural and pastoral trade. However, due to the abundance of coal in the South Wales valleys, there was a phenomenal growth in population and a dynamic shift in the economy of South Wales during the 18th and 19th centuries. The areas of central Glamorgan, in particular, became national centers for coal mining and steel production, while the ports of Cardiff and Swansea established themselves as commercial centers, offering banking, shopping and insurance facilities. Moreover, places on the north coast, such as Rhyl and Llandudno, developed into fashionable resorts serving the expanding populations of the major industrial cities of Lancashire.
In recent years, coal mining has shrunk to only a very few sites and heavy industry has declined. However, Wales’ stunning scenery and rich history has lent itself to the development of tourism, while Cardiff and Swansea have retained their rankings as centres of commerce and cutting-edge industry. A blue class super computer installed at Swansea University is enhancing Wales’ standing in this respect. Cardiff, which was designated as capital of Wales in 1955, has seen a huge amount of investment in institutions in recent decades through devolution of government, also giving rise to a significant amount of politcal power being passed down from Westminster.