The construction of a 'new nationalism'

The Welsh Nationalist Party to 1946


  • Syd Morgan


The invisibility of Wales compared to other sub-state nations such as Catalonia and Scotland invites case studies of this sociological phenomenon from multiple perspectives. This article utilises the formation and development of a new, territorially-centred political party and its invention of a new nationalism as an instrument for achieving territorial visibility, which was recognised and empowering. In the process, it characterised its predecessor old nationalism as unseen or subjugated. While intellectual innovation, party activities conventional and unconventional and press exposure were central to this new formation, its foundational era the post-War turbulence of the inter-war period and the Second World War challenged its political development but saw it rapidly adapt.

The article critically reviews the current historiography of Welsh nationalism from the failure of the old nationalism of the Liberal and Labour parties and places this demonstrably new nationalism in its European and global contexts. State-building was the partys core component, which placed it in sharp opposition to the British state. Nor was it just another political party competing within the state, but one with an alternative world-view. Another foundational principle was the protection of the Welsh language. Yet it appealed to non-Welsh speakers and immigrants in the era of fascist Europe. This newly constructed alterity was especially marked in the field of international relations. At the apogee of the British Empire, it espoused a fundamentalist opposition to imperialism, stressing what it saw as the negative connectivity between UK domestic and international policies. Defining a new national interest, the party used the super-visible Irish Free State as an exemplar, not only on constitutional issues but economics, trade, international affairs and defence. The latter helped define its 'defensive neutrality' policy during World War II, a position which invited powerful attacks from state opponents.

While not conspicuously successful in parliamentary terms at the end of the period under review, nevertheless the party emerged stronger than it was pre-war, having achieved intellectual and electoral visibility for itself and its ideology.

Author Biography

Syd Morgan

Syd Morgan is a Research Officer in Swansea Universitys European Institute of Identities. Previously, he was a Lecturer in Humanities at Cardiff Metropolitan University. His research paper Questions of Political Communication in Wales was published in 2009 and Welsh state-building or UK state-reforming? Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party in 2014. Prior to pursuing an academic career, he was a political practitioner for Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales, and an elected councilor for the party. He is an honorary member of the Centre Maurits Coppieters, a Brussels think-tank associated with the European Free Alliance political party. He is currently a PhD candidate researching The Relationship between Fianna Fl and the Welsh Nationalist Party, 1925-1951. His professional memberships include the University Association for Contemporary European Studies and the Political Studies Association of Ireland.



How to Cite

Morgan, S. (2014). The construction of a ’new nationalism’: The Welsh Nationalist Party to 1946. Studies on National Movements (SNM), 2. Retrieved from