Welsh Keywords: Gwladfa

From Planet 240

by Geraldine Lublin

This is the thirty‐sixth contribution to our Welsh Keywords series – inspired by Raymond Williams’ Keywords – which offers contemporary perspectives on contested meanings of words in Welsh and how these shifting meanings continue to shape our society.

A good few years ago, I was chatting to another PhD student and asked why he had chosen to study ‘Y Wladfa’, as the Welsh settlement in Patagonia is usually referred to in Welsh. He said the idea had come to him during his year abroad in the Netherlands: ‘Over there’ – he explained confidently – ‘people often talk about “the colonies”. As a Welsh person, I thought “We also have a colony!”, and that’s how I decided to learn more about the Welsh in Patagonia.’ Rather outraged, I remember thinking at the time: ‘This guy clearly has no idea; how can he compare the Welsh settlement to the Dutch colonial empire?!’

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