The country known as Wales has a national identity which goes back before medieval times – after the Romans took over the country by AD 78 and introduced Christianity afterwards. By the time the Romans withdrew from Britain in the 5th century AD, Wales was emerging as a Celtic British country. With periodic Viking raids in Wales, and local fiefdoms battling amongst themselves for power within this country’s various regions, it was successfully conquered by nearby England’s King Edward I by the end of the 13th century. By the 16th century, Wales was incorporated into England and its legal system.
With the British Empire gradually emerging and extending worldwide, Wales was going through economic expansion, ranging from industries connected to agriculture, such as milling and the manufacture of woolen textiles, through mining and quarrying. All this took place in the year before the Industrial Revolution took off in England (from 1760 onward). During the Industrial Revolution itself, Wales became known for its massive output of copper, coal, slate quarrying, and iron smelting.
Wales went through its share of economic stagnation from the early 1920s to the late 1930s, with widespread unemployment and poverty. This stopped during World War II, with the local population mobilized for war against Nazi Germany. At that time, the Welsh ports of Cardiff, Swansea, and Pembroke became targets of German Air Force bombing raids.
Aside from World War II, the one drama the country went through was occasional efforts by sectors of the local population to assert Welsh independence. This was at its height in the 1960s, when militant groups such as the “Free Wales Army” and the “Welsh Defence Movement” were formed (triggered by the flooding of the Tryweryn Valley in 1965 – that facilitated the building of a reservoir to supply water to the English city of Liverpool). That campaign, however, only went as far as isolated bombings of water pipes, tax and other municipal offices, and a portion of the dam at the Clywedog reservoir project in Montgomeryshire (that was being built to supply water to England’s Midlands area).
Symbolically, Wales was tied into British royalty, when Prince Charles became the Prince of Wales in 1969. By that time and into the 1970s, efforts to attract more industries and companies into Wales fortified the local Welsh economy, thereby tying the country’s future to that of nearby England. These days, tourism has become a growing part of the Welsh economy. According to accounting firm Deloitte’s research into tourism’s contribution to the local economy, that sector is projected to swell from its current value of £6.9bn to £13.2bn by 2025, to be worth around 15% of the country’s GDP.
Tourism supports an estimated 206,000 jobs across Wales, worth nearly 15% of total employment, which will grow by 30,000 by 2025. Much of that tourism is driven by medieval era and other historic sites – in particular the string of castles built throughout Wales by England’s King Edward I, such as Caernafon Castle and Caerphilly Castle. There’s also the suburban village of Caerleon, which has various Roman remains, such as an amphitheater, baths, and barracks, and even a Roman harbor – all used by the Roman Legion. Along with these and other sites, Wales is also known for its roster of internationally-acclaimed actors, such as Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, John Rhys-Davies, Michael Sheen, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.