Revealing the Objects: Responses to the Blue Book Reports

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 31-08-2018

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of publications that directly responded to the Blue Book Reports. These will be digitized as part of the project.


R. R. W. Lingen, J. C. Symons and H. R. Vaughan Johnson – Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales (1847)

In 1846 William Williams, the Welsh Member of Parliament for Coventry, introduced a motion that would eventually lead to an inquiry into the state of education in Wales. In the eyes of Williams, and the British Government in general, the Welsh people were becoming an increasingly unruly and riotous population and therefore threatened the foundations of society. Government officials were convinced that these seditious events were coordinated and held in the Welsh language. Kay-Suttleworth, the Secretary of the Council of Education noted that the commission would hold “an inquiry into the state of education in Wales, especially into the means afforded to the labouring classes of acquiring a knowledge of the English language”, that is, the language of commerce, higher education, government and law. Three deputies were appointed as investigators; R.R. W. Lingen, J. C. Symons and H. V. Johnson; their conclusions were later published in report form. With regards to education, many aspects were criticized by all deputies, including the poor quality of education provided by unqualified teachers, schools’ unsuitable locations and lack of facilities. Due to the ignorance and prejudices of the deputies these faults were over exaggerated slightly, in fact, education of the lower classes in England did not fare any better. Their comments concerning the immorality of Welsh women were highly controversial. Only six pages of the reports were devoted to these criticisms; however such remarks were discussed extensively by the national press, particularly the London papers. The reports were also seen as an attack on the Welsh language due to the deputies’ comments regarding its inferior status and that its use restricted the masses in terms of social prospects.

Jane Williams (Ysgafell) – Artegall or, Remarks on the Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales (1848)

Jane Williams was a London-born historian and miscellaneous writer. She spent many years of her life in Brecon, Wales and as a result developed a friendship with the famous cultural sponsor and supporter Augusta Hall, or Lady Llanover. Thereafter Williams took a great interest in Welsh literature and learnt the language. She published several important volumes, yet ‘Artegall or, Remarks on the Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales’ was printed as an anonymous pamphlet. It examined the reliability of the witnesses called to give evidence for the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales. Williams stressed her disapproval of the generalisations made by the deputies throughout their investigations, proving that individuals of Anglican dissent were prepared to defend the Welsh people after the reports were published.

Evan Jones (Ieuan Gwynedd) – Facts, figures, and statements, of illustration of the dissent and morality of Wales: an appeal to the English people (1849)

Evan Jones, also known by his pen-name Ieuan Gwynedd, was a poet and pamphleteer. He was an avid supporter of the temperance movement and a dedicated Nonconformist. He defended Welsh nonconformity against the attacks of clergymen, and, more specifically, against the numerous criticisms noted by the Education Commissioners of 1847. His arguments, always strongly presented, were based on a careful preliminary study of the facts; as seen in his pamphlet ‘Facts, Figures, and Statements in Illustration of the Dissent and Morality of Wales: an Appeal to the English People’.

Robert Jones (R. J. Derfel) – Brad y Llyfrau Gleision (1854)

R. J. Derfel was a poet, writer and socialist. His play ‘Brad y Llyfrau Gleision’ or ‘The Treachery of the Blue Books’ was a direct reaction to the criticisms presented in the 1847 ‘Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales’, also referred to as ‘The Blue Books’. Derfel portrays Wales as an extremely godly country in his play, which makes it an intolerable destination for the demons. These demons however are excepting of Welsh clergymen, a group that provided most of the evidence used in the 1847 reports. Many Welsh clergymen were accused, mostly by devoted Nonconformists, of betrayal during the inquiry, and it’s no surprise that they are accepted by the occupants of hell. During the second act Beelzebub (prince of the demons) sends three spies to assess the state of the Welsh people, not dissimilar to the three deputies appointed to carry out the 1847 inquiry. The ‘Treachery’ however is committed by the Church goers and clergymen. Many, including Derfel, thought that their evidence enhanced and even fed The Blue Books’ anti-Welsh judgements. The play was inspired by the tale of the “Treachery of the Long Knives”.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:


Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

This post is also available in: Welsh

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