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British imperialist and/or avatar of welshness? Caractacus performances in the long nineteenth century

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCelts, Romans, Britons
Subtitle of host publicationClassical and Celtic Influence in the Construction of British Identities
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780198863076
Published22 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © Francesca Kaminski-Jones and Rhys Kaminski-Jones 2020. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


The WWI recruitment drive in Wales was extraordinarily successful. One strand in the propaganda that encouraged young Welsh men to enlist was the example of Caractacus, the ancient British leader who according to Tacitus had fought against the ancient Romans in Wales and, after capture, had delivered a defiant speech to the Emperor Claudius. Inaugurated by a stage play in Welsh by Beriah Gwynfe Evans, performed at a school in Abergele in 1904, there was an Edwardian craze in Wales for amateur theatrical performances by schoolchildren starring Caractacus. The trend was encouraged by the identification of Lloyd George with the ancient warrior, especially after his ‘People’s Budget’ had won the fervent support of the working classes. Once war was declared, the Caractacus performances in Wales became transparently connected with recruitment, morale, and fund-raising for the war effort. Small Welsh children across the class spectrum were still performing such plays while their elder brothers were dying in the trenches of France.

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