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Question #1: Of all the Welsh personas I have found the 13th century seems to be a favorite, may I ask why that era is so popular?
Answer: I can't answer for anyone else, but for me the attraction of the 13th century is that it was the last century during which there was independent native rule of Wales (discounting the brief and extremely turbulent bit with Owain Glyndwr at the end of the 14th century). The vast majority of our early written evidence from Wales (both literary and other) dates from the 13th or 14th centuries. This means that if you're looking for a time when you can be the subject of a native Welsh prince and yet have significant (if not enormous) amounts of research material for your persona, then you've pretty much bracketed the early and mid 13th century. In addition, more than significantly earlier periods, it was a time when someone from Wales could expect to have significant interaction with other cultures, whether at home or abroad.
(I tend to consider the mid 13th century my "core era" in terms of a research focus, but in terms of actual material culture and what I "do" in the SCA, I'm all over the temporal map. But the above reasons are why I think of the 13th century as "home".)
Question #2: Now comes the fun part -- fleshing out the Persona. Any suggestions for History Books covering the 13th century?
Answer:The two "general history" books I'd recommend are John Davies A History of Wales (generally accounted to be the best single-source history of Wales) and R.R. Davies The Age of Conquest. A slightly "lighter" book that also covers the period is David Walker's Medieval Wales. If you ever want to start digging in primary sources on your own, R. Ian Jack's volume Medieval Wales in the Sources of History series is excellent and opened my eyes to a number of types of sources that hadn't previously occurred to me. For some more specific historic topics, covering a bit of a wider span, there's: Janet Meisel Barons of the Welsh Frontier, John E. Morris The Welsh Wars of Edward I. For a contemporary Welsh take on history, there's the Brut y Tywyssogyon -- Chronicle of the Princes trans. by Thomas Jones.
While some of the material was becoming dated by the 13th century, I don't think anyone working in the context of medieval Wales should skip the medieval Welsh legal material, for which the most accessible edition is probably Dafydd Jenkins' The Law of Hywel Dda. There are other more focused legal studies, including The Welsh Law of Women edited by Jenkins & Owen.
I tend to recommend the Welsh-related literature that your persona would have been familiar with. In addition to the various heroic tales collectively published as the Mabinogion (various editions have slightly different contents) this includes things like biographies of Welsh saints, and descriptions and anecdotes about Wales and the Welsh by contemporary writers (although these last are 12th rather than 13th century).
While poetry is harder to appreciate in translation, it was such an important part of Welsh culture that it shouldn't be ignored. Each translator has their own approach and style.
For a variety of special topics, here are some interesting sources:
Heather Rose Jones Medieval Welsh Clothing to 1300 [ if you can find a copy of it -- eventually I'd like to get this up on the web, but not in the near future]
Daniel Huws Peniarth 28: Illustrations from a Welsh Law Book [about the only good contemporary visual source for medieval Welsh clothing -- what there is of it]
Glanmor Williams The Welsh Church from Conquest to Reformation
D. Huw Owen Settlement and Society in Wales [topics like settlement patterns, house types, etc.]
Enid Roberts Food of the Bards [medieval Welsh food -- a somewhat flawed book from a research point of view, and more focused on the 14-16th centuries, but the only one currently in print on the topic]
Michael P. Siddons The Development of Welsh Heraldry (in 3 volumes) [the definitive publication on the topic]
W.S. Gwyn Williams Welsh National Music and Dance [not a great deal of medieval -- or even period -- material, but since it covers pretty much all there is, it's a good starting point on the topic]
T.M. Charles-Edwards Early Irish and Welsh Kinship [everything you ever wanted to know about the socio-legal aspects of kinship systems]
N. Denholm-Young Handwriting in England and Wales [the only book I know that addresses medieval Welsh calligraphy]
The above only covers books. The majority of information on archaeological material from the period appears in journals (especially Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, Studia Celtica, Archaeologia Cambrensis, Y Cymmrodor).
At some point in the future I may try to put together a much more extensive annotated bibliography on 13th century Wales, since it's more or less my "core period" and the one I have the most resources on (not coincidentally).
Question #3: I am trying to do some research on the life and times of Llywellyn ap Owain Gwynnedd AKA Llywellyn Fawr, Prince of Gwynnedd during the later part of the 12th and early part of the 13th centuries. I'm having a hard time finding contemporary source material (not surprising as I live in the backwoods somewhere near the middle of nowhere). Besides Geoffrey of Monmouth's "A Journey through Wales/A History of Wales" could anybody point me to some reliable sources of info? Preferably webbed since my local library doesn't understand the concept of inter-library loans outside of this county.
Answer: Restricting yourself to stuff that's been webbed may be a mistake. One of the types of sources I recommend to people for this topic is material on early medieval Welsh law. The most accessible in-print item is probably Dafydd Jenkins' "The Law of Hywel Dda" (Gomer Press). While the medieval Welsh law codes have their origins in an earlier period, the earliest editions that have come down to us date generally to the 13th century and greatly reflect the realities of life at that point. You can also get some surprising everyday-life details out of the historic chronicles (e.g., "Brut y Tywysogion" -- a translation of at least one version is available as part of the University of Wales "History and Law" series of texts).
If simple accessibility (as opposed to affordability) is the problem, check out Books for Scholars and hold onto your wallet.
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