"Our Poor Land of Wales": National Identity and National Heroism in Women’s Historical Fictions

Diana Wallace*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This essay examines a selection of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historical fictions by anglophone Welsh women writers and other women writers sympathetic to Wales, focusing on Emma Robinson's Owen Tudor: An Historical Romance (1849), L. M. Spooner's Gladys of Harlech; or, The Sacrifice. A Romance of Welsh History (1858), Elizabeth Gaskell's “The Doom of the Griffiths” (1858) and Allen Raine's Hearts of Wales: An Old Romance (1905). Both women and Wales have been notably absent from theorizations of the development of the historical novel, in part because the focus on the work of Sir Walter Scott has led to an emphasis on an Anglo-Scottish model. In contrast, this essay explores the way that these women writers represent Wales in order to reshape narratives of national identity and explore notions of male and female heroism. All four writers invoke the figure of Owain Glyndŵr as the leader of the last major rebellion against the English, while two also feature the figures of Owen Tudor and Henry Tudor as the founders of the Tudor dynasty. They examine the national and personal consequences of betrayal and defeat. Excluded from mainstream historiography, these female writers turn to other modes of writing in order to reinsert both women and Wales into history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-498
Number of pages17
JournalWomen's Writing
Issue number4
Early online date18 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • historical fiction
  • Welsh women's writing
  • nineteenth century literature
  • twentieth-century literature
  • national identity
  • Emma Robinson
  • LM Spooner
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Allen Raine
  • Wales
  • historical novel
  • male and female heroism


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