Wales

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Posted by sonny 03/14/2009 @ 01:09

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News headlines
Williams ditches Wales for Socceroos - FOXSports.com
by RivalsDM Middlesbrough's Rhys Williams has opted to play for the country of his birth, Australia, ahead of Wales - who he represented at Under-21 level. The highly-rated defender is yet to make his league debut for Boro, but he has impressed whilst...
Charges Against Lake Wales Coach to Be Dropped - The Ledger
By Jason Geary BARTOW | Prosecutors will drop charges against a Lake Wales police sergeant and high school football coach accused of biting a 15-year-old boy's nose if he completes conditions of a pretrial intervention program....
Koumas set to miss Wales matches - BBC News
Wales are set to be without Jason Koumas for the friendly with Estonia in Llanelli on 29 May and the World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan on 6 June. BBC Sport Wales understands that the Wigan midfielder will undergo surgery on the hip problem that has...
Lake Wales' Kirby signs with SFCC - News Chief
LAKE WALES - Brandon Kirby, of Lake Wales High School, signed a letter of intent with South Florida Community College on Thursday to play baseball. \>\> WINTER HAVEN - The Winter Haven Wolverines football and cheerleading program will have signups...
Lake Wales Is Hungry for One More Title - The Ledger
LAKE WALES' VETERANS are itching for another state title to add to the program's legacy. Among the veteran leaders are, front row from left, Tiffani Upchurch, Ashley King and Red Simmons, and back row, Tabatha Martin and Whitney deloach....
Plaid aims to win two of Wales' European seats - WalesOnline
A BULLISH Plaid Cymru yesterday announced the goal of overtaking coalition partner Labour and winning two of Wales' four seats in next month's European election. The party pulled no punches in an assault on Labour's record in Westminster and Brussels,...
Festival time in North Wales - Lansdale Reporter
By BRIAN BINGAMAN This year's North Wales Community Day looks to have a mix of sun and clouds and a high of 75. So since it doesn't look like rain's going to push the fun indoors, here's what you'll need to know about the car show, the crafters,...
BBC and S4C to screen Wales tour - BBC Sport
Wales' two-Test summer tour to North America will be televised exclusively live by BBC Cymru Wales and S4C. BBC TWO Wales will screen the first Test against Canada at Toronto's York University Stadium on May 30 at 1945 BST with highlights on S4C on...
French teacher suspended at Prince of Wales school - Telegraph.co.uk
A French teacher has been suspended by Gordonstoun School, where the Prince of Wales was a pupil, over allegations that he helped pupils cheat in exams. Eric Tessier-Lavigne, 51, is alleged to have given pupils an unfair advantage....
Wales News Hopes of Welsh tourism boom - WalesOnline
THE recession is continuing to hit the number of overseas visitors coming to the UK – but Wales is expected to avoid a summer tourism slump. Official figures released yesterday revealed that Britain welcomed 6.28m foreign tourists in the first three...

Wales

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Wales /ˈweɪlz/ (help·info) (Welsh: Cymru; pronounced (help·info)) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, bordered by England to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It is also an elective region of the European Union. Wales has a population estimated at three million and is officially bilingual, with both Welsh and English having equal status.

Originally (and traditionally) a Celtic land and one of the Celtic nations, a distinct Welsh national identity emerged in the early fifth century, after the Roman withdrawal from Britain. The 13th-century defeat of Llewelyn by Edward I completed the Anglo-Norman conquest of Wales and brought about centuries of English occupation. Wales was subsequently incorporated into England with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, creating the legal entity known today as England and Wales. However, distinctive Welsh politics developed in the 19th century, and in 1881 the Welsh Sunday Closing Act became the first legislation applied exclusively to Wales. In 1955 Cardiff was proclaimed as national capital and in 1999 the National Assembly for Wales was created, which holds responsibility for a range of devolved matters.

The capital Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd) is Wales's largest city with 317,500 people. For a period it was the biggest coal port in the world and, for a few years before World War One, handled a greater tonnage of cargo than either London or Liverpool. Two-thirds of the Welsh population live in South Wales, with another concentration in eastern North Wales. Many tourists have been drawn to Wales's "wild... and picturesque" landscapes. From the late 19th century onwards, Wales acquired its popular image as the "land of song", attributable in part to the revival of the eisteddfod tradition. Actors, singers and other artists are celebrated in Wales today, often achieving international success. Cardiff is the largest media centre in the UK outside of London.

Wales is sometimes referred to as a principality, although this has no constitutional basis. Llywelyn the Great founded the Principality of Wales in 1216. Just over a hundred years after the Edwardian Conquest, Owain Glyndŵr briefly restored independence in the early 15th century, to what was to become modern Wales. Traditionally the British Royal Family have bestowed the courtesy title of 'Prince of Wales' upon the heir apparent of the reigning monarch.

The English name "Wales" originates from the Germanic word Walh or Waelisc, which referred to foreigners who had been "Romanised". Waelisc also provides the source of English word Welsh. As the terms Walh or Waelisc were not used by Germanic speakers to describe their eastern neighbours, it would have had a meaning that was more than just "foreigner". Anglo-Saxons used their version of an Old Teutonic term to apply to speakers of Celtic languages as well as to speakers of Latin. The same etymology applies to walnuts (meaning—nut of the Roman lands) as well as to the "wall" of Cornwall in Britain and to Wallonia in Belgium. Old Church Slavonic also borrowed the term from the Germanic, and it served as the origin of the names of the Romanian region of Wallachia and its people, the Vlachs.

There is also a medieval legend found in the Historia Regum Britanniae of Sieffre o Fynwy (Geoffrey of Monmouth) that derives Cymru from the name Camber, son of Brutus and, according to the legend, the eponymous King of Cymru (Cambria in Latin); this, however, is considered largely the fruit of Geoffrey's vivid imagination.

Wales (Welsh: Cymru) has been inhabited by modern humans for at least 29,000 years. Although continuous human habitation dates from the end of the last ice age (between 12,000 and 10,000 Before Present (BP)), when mesolithic hunter-gatherers from Central Europe began to migrate to Great Britain. Wales was free of glaciers by about 10,250 BP and people would have been able to walk between Continental Europe and Great Britain until between about 7,000 and 6,000 BP, before the post glacial rise in sea level led to Great Britain becoming an island, and the Irish Sea forming to separate Wales and Ireland. John Davies has theorised that the story of Cantre'r Gwaelod's drowning and tales in the Mabinogion, of the waters between Wales and Ireland being narrower and shallower, may be distant folk memories of this time. The area became heavily wooded, restricting movement, and people also came to Great Britain by boat, from the Iberian Peninsula. These Neolithic colonists integrated with the indigenous people, gradually changing their lifestyles from a nomadic life of hunting and gathering, to become settled farmers—the Neolithic Revolution. They cleared the forests to establish pasture and to cultivate the land, developed new technologies such as ceramics and textile production, and they built cromlechs such as Pentre Ifan, Bryn Celli Ddu and Parc Cwm long cairn between about 5500 BP and 6000 BP, about 1,000 to 1,500 years before either Stonehenge or The Egyptian Great Pyramid of Giza was completed. In common with people living all over Great Britain, over the following centuries the people living in what was to become known as Wales assimilated immigrants and exchanged ideas of the Bronze Age and Iron Age Celtic cultures. By the time of the Roman invasion of Britain the area of modern Wales had been divided among the tribes of the Deceangli, Ordovices, Cornovii, Demetae and Silures for centuries.

The first documented history of the area that would become Wales was in AD 48. Following attacks by the Silures of south-east Wales, in AD 47 and 48, the Roman historian Tacitus recorded that the governor of the new Roman province of Britannia "... received the submission of the Deceangli" in north-east Wales.

A string of Roman forts was established across what is now the South Wales region, as far west as Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin; Latin: Maridunum), and gold was mined at Dolaucothi in Carmarthenshire. There is evidence that the Romans progressed even farther west. They also built the Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon (Latin: Isca Silurum), of which the magnificent amphitheatre is the best preserved in Britain.

The Romans were also busy in northern Wales, and the mediaeval Welsh tale Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig (dream of Macsen Wledig) claims that Magnus Maximus (Macsen Wledig), one of the last western Roman Emperors, married Elen or Helen, the daughter of a Welsh chieftain from Segontium, present-day Caernarfon. It was in the 4th century during the Roman occupation that Christianity was introduced to Wales.

After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 410, much of the lowlands were overrun by various Germanic tribes. However, Gwynedd, Powys, Dyfed and Seisyllg, Morgannwg, and Gwent emerged as independent Welsh successor states. They endured, in part because of favourable geographical features such as uplands, mountains, and rivers and a resilient society that did not collapse with the end of the Roman civitas.

This tenacious survival by the Romano-Britons and their descendants in the western kingdoms was to become the foundation of what we now know as Wales. With the loss of the lowlands, England's kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria, and later Wessex, wrestled with Powys, Gwent, and Gwynedd to define the frontier between the two peoples.

In the planning of it, there was a degree of consultation with the kings of Powys and Gwent. On the Long Mountain near Trelystan, the dyke veers to the east, leaving the fertile slopes in the hands of the Welsh; near Rhiwabod, it was designed to ensure that Cadell ap Brochwel retained possession of the Fortress of Penygadden." And for Gwent Offa had the dyke built "on the eastern crest of the gorge, clearly with the intention of recognizing that the River Wye and its traffic belonged to the kingdom of Gwent.

However, Fox's interpretations of both the length and purpose of the Dyke have been questioned by more recent research. Offa's Dyke largely remained the frontier between the Welsh and English, though the Welsh would recover by the 12th century the area between the Dee and the Conwy known then as the Perfeddwlad. By the eighth century, the eastern borders with the Anglo-Saxons had broadly been set.

Following the successful examples of Cornwall in 722 and Brittany in 865, the Britons of Wales made their peace with the Vikings and asked the Norsemen to help the Britons fight the Anglo-Saxons of Mercia to prevent an Anglo-Saxon conquest of Wales. In 878 AD the Britons of Wales unified with the Vikings of Denmark to destroy an Anglo-Saxon army of Mercians. Like Cornwall in 722, this decisive defeating of the Saxons gave Wales some decades of peace from Anglo-Saxon attack. In 1063, the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn made an alliance with Norwegian Vikings against Mercia which, as in 878 AD was successful, and the Saxons of Mercia defeated. As with Cornwall and Brittany, Viking aggression towards the Saxons/Franks ended any chance of the Anglo-Saxons/Franks conquering their Celtic neighbours.

The southern and eastern lands lost to English settlement became known in Welsh as Lloegyr (Modern Welsh Lloegr), which may have referred to the kingdom of Mercia originally, and which came to refer to England as a whole. The Germanic tribes who now dominated these lands were invariably called Saeson, meaning "Saxons". The Anglo-Saxons called the Romano-British 'Walha', meaning 'Romanised foreigner' or 'stranger'. The Welsh continued to call themselves Brythoniaid (Brythons or Britons) well into the Middle Ages, though the first use of Cymru and y Cymry is found as early as 633 in the Gododdin of Aneirin. In Armes Prydain, written in about 930, the words Cymry and Cymro are used as often as 15 times. It was not until about the 12th century however, that Cymry began to overtake Brythoniaid in their writings.

From the year 800 onwards, a series of dynastic marriages led to Rhodri Mawr's (r. 844-877) inheritance of Gwynedd and Powys. His sons in turn would found three principal dynasties (Aberffraw for Gwynedd, Dinefwr for Deheubarth, and Mathrafal for Powys), each competing for hegemony over the others. Rhodri's grandson Hywel Dda (r.900-950) founded Deheubarth out of his maternal and paternal inheritances of Dyfed and Seisyllwg, ousted the Aberffraw dynasty from Gwynedd and Powys, and codified Welsh law in 930, finally going on a pilgrimage to Rome (and allegedly having the Law Codes blessed by the Pope). Maredudd ab Owain (r.986-999) of Deheubarth (Hywel's grandson) would, (again) temporarily oust the Aberffraw line from control of Gwynedd and Powys. Maredudd's great-grandson (through his daughter Princess Angharad) Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (r.1039-1063) would conquer his cousins' realms from his base in Powys, and even extend his authority into England. Historian John Davies states that Gruffydd was "the only Welsh king ever to rule over the entire territory of Wales... Thus, from about 1057 until his death in 1063, the whole of Wales recognised the kingship of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn. For about seven brief years, Wales was one, under one ruler, a feat with neither precedent nor successor." Owain Gwynedd (1100-1170) of the Aberffraw line was the first Welsh ruler to use the title princeps Wallensium (prince of the Welsh), a title of substance given his victory on the Berwyn Mountains, according to John Davies.

The Aberffraw dynasty would surge to pre-eminence with Owain Gwynedd's grandson Llywelyn Fawr (the Great) (b.1173-1240), wrestling concessions out of the Magna Carta in 1215 and receiving the fealty of other Welsh lords in 1216 at the council at Aberdyfi, becoming the first Prince of Wales. His grandson Llywelyn II also secured the recognition of the title Prince of Wales from Henry III with the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267. Later however, a succession of disputes, including the imprisonment of Llywelyn's wife Eleanor, daughter of Simon de Montfort, culminated in the first invasion by Edward I. As a result of military defeat, the Treaty of Aberconwy exacted Llywelyn's fealty to England in 1277. Peace was short lived and with the 1282 Edwardian conquest the rule of the Welsh princes permanently ended. With Llywelyn's death and his brother prince Dafydd's execution, the few remaining Welsh lords did homage for their lands to Edward I. Llywelyn's head was then carried through London on a spear; his baby daughter Gwenllian was locked in the priory at Sempringham, where she remained until her death fifty four years later.

To help maintain his dominance, Edward constructed a series of great stone castles. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, and Conwy were built mainly to overshadow the Welsh royal home and headquarters Garth Celyn, Aber Garth Celyn, on the north coast of Gwynedd.

After the failed revolt in 1294-5 of Madog ap Llywelyn - who styled himself prince of Wales in the so-called Penmachno Document - there was no major uprising until that led by Owain Glyndŵr a century later, against Henry IV of England. In 1404 Owain was reputedly crowned Prince of Wales in the presence of emissaries from France, Spain and Scotland; he went on to hold parliamentary assemblies at several Welsh towns, including Machynlleth. The rebellion was ultimately to founder, however, and Owain went into hiding in 1412, with peace being more or less restored in Wales by 1415.

Although the English conquest of Wales took place under the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan, a formal Union did not occur until 1536, shortly after which Welsh law, which continued to be used in Wales after the conquest, was fully replaced by English law under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542.

In the 20th century, Wales saw a revival in its national status. Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925, seeking greater autonomy or independence from the rest of the UK. In 1955, the term England and Wales became common for describing the area to which English law applied, and Cardiff was proclaimed as capital city. In 1962 the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg) was formed in response to fears that the language might soon die out. Nationalism grew, particularly following the flooding of the Tryweryn valley in 1965 to create a reservoir supplying water to the English city of Liverpool. Despite 35 of the 36 Welsh Members of Parliament (MPs) voting against the bill, with the other abstaining, Parliament still passed the bill and the village of Capel Celyn was drowned, highlighting Wales's powerlessness in her own affairs in the face of the numerical superiority of English MPs in the London Parliament. In 1966 the Carmarthen Parliamentary seat was won by Gwynfor Evans at a by-election, Plaid Cymru's first Parliamentary seat.

Both the Free Wales Army and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC) (English: Welsh Defence Movement) were formed as a direct result of the Tryweryn destruction, conducting campaigns from 1963. In the years leading up to the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969, these groups were responsible for a number of bomb blasts—destroying water pipes, tax and other offices, and part of a dam being built for a new English backed project in Clywedog, Montgomeryshire. In 1967, the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 was repealed for Wales, and a legal definition of Wales, and of the boundary with England was stated.

A referendum on the creation of an assembly for Wales in 1979 (see Wales referendum, 1979) led to a large majority for the "no" vote. However, in 1997 a referendum on the same issue secured a "yes", although by a very narrow majority. The National Assembly for Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was set up in 1999 (as a consequence of the Government of Wales Act 1998) and possesses the power to determine how the central government budget for Wales is spent and administered (although the UK parliament reserves the right to set limits on the powers of the Welsh Assembly). The 1998 Act was amended by the Government of Wales Act 2006 which enhanced the Assembly's powers, giving it legislative powers akin to the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly. Following the 2007 Assembly election, the One Wales Government was formed under a coalition agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Labour Party, under that agreement, a convention is due to be established to discuss further enhancing Wales's legislative and financial autonomy. A referendum on giving the Welsh assembly full law-making powers is promised "as soon as practicable, at or before the end of the assembly term (in 2011)" and both parties have agreed "in good faith to campaign for a successful outcome to such a referendum".

The head of state in Wales, a constituent part of the United Kingdom, is the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, (since 1952). Executive power is vested in the Queen, and exercised by Her Majesty's Government at Westminster, with some powers devolved to the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff. The United Kingdom Parliament retains responsibility for passing primary legislation in Wales, but since the Government of Wales Act 2006 came into effect in 2007, the National Assembly for Wales can request powers to pass primary legislation as Assembly Measures on specific issues. The National Assembly is not a sovereign authority, and the UK Parliament could, in theory, overrule or even abolish it at any time.

The National Assembly was first established in 1998 under the Government of Wales Act. There are 60 members of the Assembly, known as "Assembly Members (AM)". Forty of the AMs are elected under the First Past the Post system, with the other 20 elected via the Additional Member System via regional lists in 5 different regions. The largest party elects the First Minister of Wales, who acts as the head of government. The Welsh Assembly Government is the executive arm, and the Assembly has delegated most of its powers to the Assembly Government. The new Assembly Building designed by Lord Rogers was opened by The Queen on St David's Day (1 March) 2006.

The First Minister of Wales is Rhodri Morgan (since 2000), of the Welsh Labour party, with 26 of 60 seats. After the National Assembly for Wales election, 2007 Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru; The Party of Wales, which favours Welsh independence from the rest of the United Kingdom entered into a coalition partnership to form a stable government with the "historic" One Wales agreement. As the second largest party in the Assembly with 15 out of 60 seats, Plaid Cymru is led by Ieuan Wyn Jones, now the Deputy First Minister of Wales. The presiding officer of the Assembly is Plaid Cymru member Lord Elis-Thomas. Other parties include the Conservative Party, currently the loyal opposition with 12 seats, and the Liberal Democrats with six seats. The "LibDems" had previously formed part of a coalition government with Labour in the first Assembly. There is one independent member.

In the British House of Commons, Wales is represented by 40 MPs (out of a total of 646) from Welsh constituencies. Welsh Labour represents 29 of the 40 seats, the Liberal Democrats hold four seats, Plaid Cymru three and the Conservatives three. A Secretary of State for Wales sits in the UK cabinet and is responsible for representing matters that pertain to Wales. The Wales Office is a department of the United Kingdom government, responsible for Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales is Paul Murphy, who replaced Peter Hain on 24 January 2008 over an investigation on undeclared donations.

For the purposes of local government, Wales was divided into 22 council areas in 1996. These "unitary authorities" are responsible for the provision of all local government services.

Areas are Counties, unless marked * (for Cities) or † (for County Boroughs). Welsh language forms are given in parentheses, where they differ from the English..

Note that there are five cities in total in Wales: in addition to Cardiff, Newport and Swansea, the communities of Bangor and St David's also have city status.

English law is regarded as a common law system, with no major codification of the law, and legal precedents are binding as opposed to persuasive. The court system is headed by the House of Lords which is the highest court of appeal in the land for criminal and civil cases (although this is due to be replaced by a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom). The Supreme Court of Judicature of England and Wales is the highest court of first instance as well as an appellate court. The three divisions are the Court of Appeal; the High Court of Justice and the Crown Court. Minor cases are heard by the Magistrates' Courts or the County Court.

Since devolution in 2006, the Welsh Assembly has had the authority to draft and approve some laws outside of the UK Parliamentary system to meet the specific needs of Wales. Under powers conferred by Legislative Competency Orders agreed by all parliamentary stakeholders, it is able to pass laws known as Assembly Measures in relation to specific fields, such as health and education. As such, Assembly Measures are a subordinate form of primary legislation, lacking the scope of UK-wide Acts of Parliament, but able to be passed without the approval of the UK parliament or Royal Assent for each 'act'. Through this primary legislation, the Welsh Assembly Government can then also draft more specific secondary legislation. With devolution, the ancient and historic Wales and Chester court circuit was also disbanded and a separate Welsh court circuit was created to allow for any Measures passed by the Assembly.

Wales is located on a peninsula in central-west Great Britain. Its area, the size of Wales, is about 20,779 km² (8,023 square miles - about the same size as Massachusetts, Slovenia or El Salvador and about a quarter of the size of Scotland). It is about 274 km (170 miles) north-south and 97 km (60 miles) east-west. Wales is bordered by England to the east and by sea in the other three directions: the Môr Hafren (Bristol Channel) to the south, St. George's Channel to the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. Altogether, Wales has over 1,200 km (750 miles) of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest being Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in the northwest.

The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, consisting of the cities of Cardiff (Caerdydd), Swansea (Abertawe) and Newport (Casnewydd) and surrounding areas, with another significant population in the north-east around Wrexham (Wrecsam).

Much of Wales's diverse landscape is mountainous, particularly in the north and central regions. The mountains were shaped during the last ice age, the Devensian glaciation. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia (Eryri), and include Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), which, at 1085 m (3,560 ft) is the highest peak in Wales. The 14 (or possibly 15) Welsh mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s, and are located in a small area in the north-west. The Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog) are in the south (highest point Pen-y-Fan 886 m (2,907 ft)), and are joined by the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales, the latter name being given to the earliest geological period of the Paleozoic era, the Cambrian.

In the mid 19th century, two prominent geologists, Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick, used their studies of the geology of Wales to establish certain principles of stratigraphy and palaeontology. After much dispute, the next two periods of the Paleozoic era, the Ordovician and Silurian, were named after ancient Celtic tribes from this area. The older rocks underlying the Cambrian rocks were referred to as Pre-cambrian.

Wales has three National Parks: Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast. It also has four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These areas include Anglesey, the Clwydian Range, the Gower peninsula and the Wye Valley. The Gower peninsula was the first area in the whole of the United Kingdom to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in 1956.

Much of the coastline of South and West Wales is designated as Heritage Coast. The coastline of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, the Gower peninsula, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, and Ceredigion is particularly wild and impressive. Gower, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Cardigan Bay all have clean blue water, white sand beaches and impressive marine life. Despite this scenic splendour the coast of Wales has a dark side; the south and west coasts of Wales, along with the Irish and Cornish coasts, are frequently blasted by huge Atlantic westerlies/south westerlies that, over the years, have sunk and wrecked many vessels. On the night of 25 October 1859, 114 ships were destroyed off the coast of Wales when a hurricane blew in from the Atlantic; Cornwall and Ireland also had a huge number of fatalities on its coastline from shipwrecks that night. Wales has the somewhat unenviable reputation, along with Cornwall, Ireland and Brittany, of having per square mile, some of the highest shipwreck rates in Europe. The shipwreck situation was particularly bad during the industrial era when ships bound for Cardiff got caught up in Atlantic gales and were decimated by "the cruel sea".

Like Cornwall, Brittany and Ireland, the clean, clear waters of South-west Wales of Gower, Pembrokeshire and Cardigan Bay attract marine visitors including basking sharks, Atlantic grey seals, leatherback turtles, dolphins, porpoises, jellyfish, crabs and lobsters. Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion in particular are recognised as an area of international importance for Bottlenose dolphins, and New Quay in the middle of Cardigan Bay has the only summer residence of bottle nosed dolphins in the whole of the U.K.

The modern border between Wales and England was largely defined in the 16th century, based on medieval feudal boundaries. The boundary line (which very roughly follows Offa's Dyke up to 40 miles (64 km) of the northern coast) separates Knighton from its railway station, virtually cuts off Church Stoke from the rest of Wales, and slices straight through the village of Llanymynech (where a pub actually straddles the line).

Parts of Wales have been heavily industrialised since the 18th century and the early Industrial Revolution. Coal, copper, iron, silver, lead, and gold have been extensively mined in Wales, and slate has been quarried. By the second half of the 19th century, mining and metallurgy had come to dominate the Welsh economy, transforming the landscape and society in the industrial districts of south and north-east Wales.

From the middle of the nineteenth century until the mid 1980s, the mining and export of coal was a major part of the Welsh economy. Cardiff was once the largest coal exporting port in the world and, for a few years before World War One, handled a greater tonnage of cargo than either London or Liverpool.

From the early 1970s, the Welsh economy faced massive restructuring with large numbers of jobs in traditional heavy industry disappearing and being replaced eventually by new ones in light industry and in services. Over this period Wales was successful in attracting an above average share of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UK. However, much of the new industry has essentially been of a 'branch factory' type, often routine assembly employing low skilled workers.

Wales has struggled to develop or attract high value-added employment in sectors such as finance and research and development, attributable in part to a comparative lack of economic mass (i.e. population) - Wales lacks a large metropolitan centre and most of the country, except south east Wales, is sparsely populated. The lack of high value-added employment is reflected in lower economic output per head relative to other regions of the UK - in 2002 it stood at 90% of the EU25 average and around 80% of the UK average. However, care is needed in interpreting these data, which do not take account of regional differences in the cost of living. The gap in real living standards between Wales and more prosperous parts of the UK is not pronounced.

In 2002, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Wales was just over £26 billion ($48 billion), giving a per capita GDP of £12,651 ($19,546). As of 2006, the unemployment rate in Wales stood at 5.7% - above the UK average, but lower than in the majority of EU countries.

As with the rest of the United Kingdom, the currency used in Wales is the pound sterling, represented by the symbol £. The Bank of England, created as the central bank for the Kingdom of England (which included Wales), is responsible for the currency of the entire United Kingdom. Banks in Wales, unlike those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, do not have the right to issue banknotes. The Royal Mint, who issue the coinage circulated over the whole of the UK, have been based at a single site in Llantrisant, south Wales since 1980, having been progressively transferring operations from their Tower Hill, London site since 1968. Since decimalisation, in 1971, at least one of the coins in UK circulation has depicted a Welsh design, e.g. the 1995 and 2000 one Pound coin (shown left). However, Wales is not represented on any of the coins being minted.

Due to poor-quality soil, much of Wales is unsuitable for crop-growing, and livestock farming has traditionally been the focus of agriculture. The Welsh landscape (protected by three National Parks) and 42 Blue Flag beaches, as well as the unique culture of Wales, attract large numbers of tourists, who play an especially vital role in the economy of rural areas. See Tourism in Wales.

Public healthcare in Wales is provided by NHS Wales (Welsh: GIG Cymru), which was originally formed as part of the NHS structure for England and Wales created by the National Health Service Act 1946, but with powers over the NHS in Wales coming under the Secretary of State for Wales in 1969. In turn, responsibility for NHS Wales was passed to the Welsh Assembly and Executive under devolution in 1999. NHS Wales provides public healthcare in Wales and employs some 90,000 staff, making it Wales’ biggest employer.The Minister for Health and Social Services is the person within the Welsh Assembly Government who holds cabinet responsibilities for both health and social care in Wales.

The population of Wales in the United Kingdom Census 2001 was 2,903,085, which has risen to 2,958,876 according to 2005 estimates. This would make Wales the 136th largest country by population if it were a sovereign state.

According to the 2001 census, 96% of the population was White British, and 2.1% non-white (mainly of Asian origin). Most non-white groups were concentrated in the southern port cities of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea. Welsh Asian communities developed mainly through immigration since World War II. More recently, parts of Wales have seen an increased number of immigrants settle from recent EU accession countries such as Poland - although some Poles also settled in Wales in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

In the 2001 Labour Force Survey, 72% of adults in Wales considered their national identity as wholly Welsh and another 7% considered themselves to be partly Welsh (Welsh and British were the most common combination). A recent study estimated that 35% of the Welsh population have surnames of Welsh origin (5.4% of the English population and 1.6% of the Scottish also bore 'Welsh' names). However, some names identified as English (such as 'Greenaway') may be corruptions of Welsh ('Goronwy'). Other names common in Wales, such as 'Richards', may have originated simultaneously in other parts of Britain.

In 2001 a quarter of the Welsh population were born outside Wales, mainly in England; about 3% were born outside the UK. The proportion of people who were born in Wales differs across the country, with the highest percentages in the South Wales Valleys, and the lowest in Mid Wales and parts of the north-east. In both Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil 92% were Welsh-born, compared to only 51% in Flintshire and 56% in Powys. One of the reasons for this is that the locations of the most convenient hospitals in which to give birth are over the border in England.

The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages be treated on a basis of equality. However, even English has only de facto official status in the UK (see Languages of the United Kingdom) and this has led political groups like Plaid Cymru to question whether such legislation is sufficient to ensure the survival of the Welsh language.

English is spoken by almost all people in Wales and is therefore the de facto main language (see Welsh English). However, northern and western Wales retain many areas where Welsh is spoken as a first language by the majority of the population and English is learnt as a second language. 21.7% of the Welsh population is able to speak or read Welsh to some degree (based on the 2001 census), although only 16% claim to be able to speak, read and write it, which may be related to the stark differences between colloquial and literary Welsh. According to a language survey conducted in 2004, a larger proportion than 21.7% claim to have some knowledge of the language. Today there are very few truly monoglot Welsh speakers, other than small children, but individuals still exist who may be considered less than fluent in English and rarely speak it. There were still many monoglots as recently as the middle of the 20th century. Road signs in Wales are generally in both English and Welsh; where place names differ in the two languages, both versions are used (e.g. "Cardiff" and "Caerdydd"), the decision as to which is placed first being that of the local authority.

During the 20th century a number of small communities of speakers of languages other than English or Welsh, such as Bengali or Cantonese, have established themselves in Wales as a result of immigration. This phenomenon is almost exclusive to urban Wales. The Italian Government funds the teaching of Italian to Welsh residents of Italian ancestry. These other languages do not have legal equality with English and Welsh, although public services may produce information leaflets in minority ethnic languages where there is a specific need, as happens elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Code-switching is common in all parts of Wales, and the result is known by various names, such as "Wenglish" or (in Caernarfon) "Cofi".

The largest religion in Wales is Christianity, with 72% of the population describing themselves as Christian in the 2001 census. The Presbyterian Church of Wales is the largest denomination and was born out of the Welsh Methodist revival in the 18th century and seceded from the Church of England in 1811. The Church in Wales is the next largest denomination, and forms part of the Anglican Communion. It too was part of the Church of England, and was disestablished by the British Government under the Welsh Church Act 1914 (the act did not take effect until 1920). The Roman Catholic Church makes up the next largest denomination at 3% of the population. Non-Christian religions are small in Wales, making up approximately 1.5% of the population. 18% of people declare no religion. The Apostolic Church holds its annual Apostolic Conference in Swansea each year, usually in August.

The patron saint of Wales is Saint David (Welsh: Dewi Sant), with St David's Day (Welsh: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant) celebrated annually on 1 March.

In 1904, there was a religious revival (known by some as the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival or simply The 1904 Revival) which started through the evangelism of Evan Roberts and took many parts of Wales by storm with massive numbers of people voluntarily converting to Nonconformist and Anglican Christianity, sometimes whole communities. Many of the present-day Pentecostal churches in Wales claim to have originated in this revival.

Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in Wales, with over 30,000 reported Muslims in the 2001 census. There are also communities of Hindus and Sikhs mainly in the South Wales cities of Newport, Cardiff and Swansea, while curiously the largest concentration of Buddhists is in the western rural county of Ceredigion. Judaism was the first non-Christian faith (excluding pre-Roman animism) to be established in Wales, however as of the year 2001 the community has declined to approximately 2,000.

Wales has a distinctive culture including its own language, customs, holidays and music.

Wales is primarily represented by the symbol of the red Welsh Dragon, but other national emblems include the leek and daffodil. The Welsh words for leeks (cennin) and daffodils (cennin Pedr, lit. "(Saint) Peter's Leeks") are closely related and it is likely that one of the symbols came to be used due to a misunderstanding for the other one, though it is less clear which came first.

In June 2008, Wales made history by becoming the first nation in the world to be awarded Fairtrade Status.

The most popular sports in Wales are rugby union and football. Wales, like other constituent nations, enjoys independent representation in major world sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup and in the Commonwealth Games (however as Great Britain in the Olympics). As in New Zealand, rugby is a core part of the national identity, although football has traditionally been more popular sport in the North Wales, possibly due to its close proximity to England's north-west. Wales has its own governing bodies in rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union and in football, the Football Association of Wales (the third oldest in the world) and most other sports. Many of Wales's top athletes, sportsmen and sportswomen train at the Welsh Institute of Sport and National Indoor Athletics Centre in Cardiff, the Wales National Velodrome in Newport and the Wales National Pool in Swansea.

The Welsh national rugby union team takes part in the annual Six Nations Championship and is the current (2008) holder of that Championship. Wales has also competed in every Rugby World Cup, hosting the tournament in 1999, with a best result of third place in the inaugural competition. Welsh teams also play in the European Heineken Cup and Magners League (rugby union) alongside teams from Ireland and Scotland, the EDF Energy Cup and the European Heineken Cup. The traditional club sides, were replaced in major competitions with four regional sides in 2003 replaced by the four professional regions (Scarlets, Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons and Ospreys) in 2004. The former club sides now operate as semi-professional clubs in their own league, linked to the four regional sides. Wales has produced ten members of the International Rugby Hall of Fame including Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams and Gerald Davies. Newport Rugby Club also achieved a historic win over the 'invincible' New Zealand Rugby team of 1963. A similar feat was achieved by Llanelli Rugby Club in October 1972.

Rugby league is now developing in Wales. The Wales national rugby league team was formed in 1907, making them the third oldest national side. Before 1975 and in the 1980s they have been represented by the Great Britain national rugby league team in the World Cup. They have however competed in the 1975, 1995 and 2000 competitions. In the latter two they reached the Semi-Finals. But they didn't qualify for the 2008 tournament, having failed to beat Scotland over two matches. Bridgend based Celtic Crusaders joined National League Two in 2006, were promoted to National League One in 2008, and will play in Super League Europe in 2009. The Crusaders Colts, also based in Bridgend, play in the Rugby League Conference National division. Eight teams compete in the Rugby League Conference Welsh Premier division, which began in 2003. The most successful teams have been the Bridgend Blue Bulls and Cardiff Demons.

In international cricket, England and Wales field a single representative team which is administered by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). There is a separate Wales team that occasionally participates in limited-overs domestic competition. Glamorgan County Cricket Club is the only Welsh participant in the England and Wales County Championship. A Wales team also plays in the English Minor Counties competition. However there has been recent debate as to whether Welsh players (such as Simon Jones) should play for an England team, and not an England and Wales team.

Wales's other bat-and-ball sport is British Baseball, which is chiefly confined to Cardiff and Newport, two cities with very long baseball traditions. The sport is governed by the Welsh Baseball Union.

The Isle of Anglesey/Ynys Môn is a member island of the International Island Games Association. The next Island Games will be held in 2007 on Rhodes (Greece). In the 2005 Games, held on the Shetland Islands, the Isle of Anglesey/Ynys Môn came 11th on the medal table with 4 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals.

Wales has produced several world class snooker players such as Ray Reardon, Terry Griffiths, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens and Ryan Day. Amateur participation in the sport is very high. The rugged terrain of the country also gives opportunities for rally driving and Wales hosts the finale of the World Rally Championship. Glamorgan compete in county cricket competitions and the Cardiff Devils were once a strong force in British ice hockey. Wales has also produced a number of athletes who have made a mark on the world stage, including the 110 m hurdler Colin Jackson who is a former world record holder and the winner of numerous Olympic, World and European medals as well as Tanni Grey-Thompson who has won Paralympic gold medals and Marathon victories.

Wales has produced several world class boxers. Joe Calzaghe the half-Welsh, half-Italian boxer has been WBO World Super-Middleweight Champion since 1997 and recently won the WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super middleweight and Ring Magazine Light-Heavy Weight titles. Former World champions include Enzo Maccarinelli, Gavin Rees, Colin Jones, Howard Winstone, Percy Jones, Jimmy Wilde, Steve Robinson and Robbie Regan.

Two Welsh drivers have competed in the Formula One championship: the first was Alan Rees at the 1967 British Grand Prix, who finished in ninth position, four laps behind the winner, Jim Clark. Tom Pryce was the more notable of the two drivers, as he finished on the podium twice and, at the 1975 British Grand Prix, qualified in pole position. Pryce's career was cut short after he collided with volunteer marshal, Jansen Van Vuuren, killing both instantly. As well as Formula One, Wales have had some notability in the World Rally Championship, producing two championship winning Co-Drivers, those being Nicky Grist, who helped Colin McRae to victory in 1995 and Phil Mills who helped Petter Solberg win the 2003 title. Wales hosts the British and final leg of the World Rally Championship.

Freddie Williams was World Motorcycle speedway champion twice - in 1950 and 1953 - and the country has a professional speedway team, Newport Wasps. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff hosts the annual British Speedway Grand Prix, the United Kingdom's round of the World Championship.

Other notable Welsh sports people include 11 times gold medal winning paralympic athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson, footballer Ryan Giggs who is playing for Manchester United in the English Premiership and is recognised as the most successful player in English football history, BDO world darts champions Richie Burnett and Mark Webster, Beijing 2008 Olympic Gold Medalists and international champion cyclists Nicole Cooke (Road Race), who also won the 2006 and 2007 Grande Boucle - the women's Tour de France, and Geraint Thomas (Team Pursuit), who also rode in the 2007 Tour de France, Commonwealth Games gold and bronze medallist in shooting Dave Phelps and Beijing 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist (10 km marathon) and Athens 2004 Olympic Bronze Medalist (1500 m freestyle), swimmer David Davies, Cyclist Simon Richardson - double gold medallist at the 2008 Summer Paralympics (1 km and 3 km time trial).

Since 2006, Wales has had its own professional golf tour, the Dragon Tour. Notable Welsh golfers include Brian Huggett, Ian Woosnam, Bradley Dredge and Phillip Price. The Celtic Manor in Newport will host the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Cardiff is home to the Welsh national media. BBC Wales is based in Llandaff, Cardiff and produces Welsh-oriented output for BBC One and BBC Two channels. BBC 2W is the Welsh digital version of BBC Two, and broadcasts between 8.30pm and 10pm each week night for specific Wales based programming. ITV the UK's main commercial broadcaster has a Welsh-oriented service branded as ITV Wales, whose studios are in Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff. S4C, based in Llanishen, Cardiff, broadcasts mostly Welsh-language programming at peak hours, but shares English-language content with Channel 4 at other times. S4C Digidol (S4C Digital), on the other hand, broadcasts mostly in Welsh. Channel 4 and Channel 5 are now available in most parts of the country via digital television and satellite.

BBC Radio Wales is Wales's only national English-language radio station, while BBC Radio Cymru broadcasts throughout Wales in Welsh. There are also a number of independent radio stations across Wales including 103.2 & 97.4 Red Dragon, 96.4 The Wave, Swansea Sound, Marcher Sound, Nation Radio, Coast FM, 102.5 Radio Pembrokeshire, 97.1 Radio Carmarthenshire, Champion 103, Radio Ceredigion and Real Radio.

Most of the newspapers sold and read in Wales are national newspapers sold and read throughout Britain, unlike in Scotland where many newspapers have rebranded into Scottish based titles. Wales-based newspapers include: South Wales Echo, South Wales Argus, South Wales Evening Post, Liverpool Daily Post (Welsh edition) and Y Cymro, a Welsh language publication. The Western Mail is the main indigenous daily newspaper in South Wales and includes a Sunday edition Wales on Sunday. Both are published by the UK's largest newspaper corporation, Trinity Mirror. The Western Mail and South Wales Echo have their offices in Thomson House, Cardiff city centre.

The first Welsh language daily, Y Byd, was due to commence on 3 March 2008. However, on 15 February 2008, it was announced that plans for Y Byd had been abandoned because of funding problems..

In addition to English-language magazines, a number of weekly and monthly Welsh-language magazines are published. Wales has some 20 publishing companies, publishing mostly English titles. However, some 500-600 titles are published each year in Welsh.

Notably, the recent hit revival of cult classic series Doctor Who was and is conceived in Wales (BBC Wales), with many episodes set in Cardiff. Most of the filming and production takes place in locations all over Wales and attracts staggering audiences worldwide. Its adult spin-off Torchwood, fronted by John Barrowman, is also set in Cardiff, with many links to Doctor Who.

About 80% of the land surface of Wales is given over to agricultural use. However, very little of this is arable land; the vast majority consists of permanent grass pasture or rough grazing for herd animals such as sheep and cows. Although both beef and dairy cattle are raised widely, especially in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, Wales is more well-known for its sheep farming, and thus lamb is the meat traditionally associated with Welsh cooking.

Some traditional dishes include laverbread (made from seaweed), bara brith (fruit bread), Cawl a lamb stew and cawl cennin (leek soup), Welsh cakes, and Welsh lamb. Cockles are sometimes served with breakfast bacon.

In 2005 the Welsh National Culinary Teams returned from the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg with eight gold, 15 silver and seven bronze medals, and were placed 7th in the world.

The principal Welsh festival of music and poetry is the National Eisteddfod. This takes place annually in a different town or city. The Llangollen International Eisteddfod echoes the National Eisteddfod but provides an opportunity for the singers and musicians of the world to perform.

Wales is often referred to as "the land of song", being particularly famous for harpists, male voice choirs, and solo artists including Sir Geraint Evans, Dame Gwyneth Jones, Dame Anne Evans, Dame Margaret Price, Ivor Novello, John Cale, Sir Tom Jones, Charlotte Church, Bonnie Tyler, Bryn Terfel, Donna Lewis, Mary Hopkin, Katherine Jenkins, Meic Stevens, Dame Shirley Bassey, Duffy and Aled Jones.

Indie bands like the Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Stereophonics (formerly Tragic Love Company), Feeder, Super Furry Animals, and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, in the 1990s, and later Goldie Lookin' Chain, mclusky, The Automatic, Steveless and Los Campesinos! have emerged from Wales. Other, less mainstream bands have emerged from Wales, such as Skindred, The Blackout, Lostprophets, Kids In Glass Houses, Bullet For My Valentine, Funeral for a Friend and were preceded by Man in the 1970s. The Beatles-nurtured power pop group Badfinger also has its roots in Wales (both the founder Peter Ham and drummer Mike Gibbins from Swansea). Another famous Welsh singer is pop icon Jem who has recorded songs for/performed on TV programmes such as Las Vegas and The OC, and movies such as Eragon. The popular New Wave/synthpop group Scritti Politti was a vehicle for singer/songwriter and Cardiff native Green Gartside.

The Welsh traditional and folk music scene is in resurgence with performers and bands such as Crasdant, Carreg Lafar, Fernhill, Siân James, Robin Huw Bowen, Llio Rhydderch, KilBride and The Hennessys. Traditional music and dance in Wales is supported by a myriad of societies. Welsh Folk Song Society (Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru) has published a number of collections of songs and tunes. The Welsh Folk Dance Society (Cymdeithas Ddawns Werin Cymru) supports a network of national amateur dance teams and publishes support material. Clear (Traditional instruments society) runs workshops to promote the harp, telyn deires (triple harp), fiddle, crwth, pibgorn (hornpipe) and other instruments. The Cerdd Dant Society promotes its specific singing art primarily through an annual one-day festival. The traditional music development agency, trac, runs projects in communities throughout Wales and advocates on behalf of traditional music. There are also societies for Welsh hymnology, oral history, small eisteddfodau, oral history, and poetry.

The 'Sîn Roc Gymraeg' (Welsh language Rock Scene) in Wales is thriving, with acts ranging from rock to hip-hop. Dolgellau, in the heart of Snowdonia has held the annual Sesiwn Fawr (mighty session) festival since 1992. The festival has grown to be Wales's largest Welsh-Language Music Festival.

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales performs in Wales and internationally. The world-renowned Welsh National Opera now has a permanent home at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, while the National Youth Orchestra of Wales was the first of its type in the world.

The main road artery linking cities and other settlements along the South Wales coast is the M4 motorway which also provides a link with England and eventually London. The Welsh section of the motorway, managed by the Welsh Assembly Government, runs from the Second Severn Crossing to Pont Abraham in West Wales, connecting cities such as Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.

In North Wales the A55 expressway performs a similar role along the north Wales coast providing connections for places such as Holyhead and Bangor with Wrexham and Flintshire and also with England, principally Chester. The main north-south Wales link is the A470 which runs from Cardiff to Llandudno.

Cardiff International Airport is the only large and international airport in Wales, offering links domestically and to European and North American destinations, located some 12 miles (19 km) south-west of Cardiff city centre, in the Vale of Glamorgan. Since May 2007 Highland Airways, a Scottish Company, has run internal flights between Anglesey (Valley) and Cardiff.

The country also has a significant railway network managed by the Welsh Assembly Government which has a programme of reopening old railway lines and extending rail usage. Cardiff Central and Cardiff Queen Street are the busiest and the major hubs on the internal and national network. Beeching cuts in the 1960s mean that most of the remaining network is geared toward east-west travel to or from England. Services from North to South Wales operate through the English towns of Chester and Shrewsbury. Valley Lines services operate in Cardiff, the South Wales Valleys and surrounding area and are heavily used as commuter lines.

Arriva Trains Wales is the major operator of rail services within Wales. It also operates routes from within Wales to Crewe, Manchester, Birmingham and Cheltenham. Virgin Trains operate services from North Wales to London as part of the West Coast Main Line. First Great Western operate services from London to Cardiff and Newport every half hour with an hourly continuation to Swansea. It also runs services from Cardiff and Newport to southern England. CrossCountry offer services from Cardiff to Nottingham and Newcastle upon Tyne via the West Midlands, East Midlands and Yorkshire.

Regular ferry services operate from Holyhead and Fishguard to Ireland.

The Flag of Wales incorporates the red dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) of Prince Cadwalader along with the Tudor colours of green and white. It was used by Henry VII at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 after which it was carried in state to St. Paul's Cathedral. The red dragon was then included in the Tudor royal arms to signify their Welsh descent. It was officially recognised as the Welsh national flag in 1959. The British Union Flag incorporates the flags of Scotland, Ireland and England but does not have any Welsh representation. Technically, however, it is represented by the flag of England due to the Laws in Wales act of 1535 which annexed Wales following the 13th century conquest.

Llanddwyn Island old lighthouse with Gwynedd in background.

Part of the Brecon Beacons, looking from the highest point Pen y Fan.

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Wales national football team

Carl Fletcher, 2010 World Cup qualification.

The Wales national football team represents Wales in international men's football. It is controlled by the Football Association of Wales, the governing body for football in Wales and the third oldest national football association in the world. The team has not qualified for a major international tournament since 1958, when it qualified for the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

Although part of the United Kingdom, Wales has always had its own representative side that plays in all the major professional tournaments, though not in the Olympic Games as the IOC only recognises the United Kingdom.

Wales were placed in Group 4 for qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Germany, Russia, Finland, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein.

Wales played its first competitive match on 25 March 1876 against Scotland in Glasgow, making it the third oldest international football team in the world.

Although the Scots won the first fixture 4–0, a return match was planned in Wales the following year, and so it was that the first international football match on Welsh soil took place at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham on 5 March 1877. Scotland took the spoils winning 2–0.

Wales' first match against England came in 1879 - a 2–1 defeat at the Kennington Oval, London and in 1882 Wales faced Ireland for the first time, winning 7–1 in Wrexham.

The associations of the four Home Nations met in Manchester on 6 December 1882 to set down a set of worldwide rules. This meeting saw the establishment of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to approve changes to the rules, a task the four associations still perform to this day.

The 1883-84 season saw the formation of the British Home Championship, a tournament which was played annually between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, until 1983-84. Wales were champions on 12 occasions - winning outright 7 times whilst sharing the title five times.

The FAW became members of FIFA, world football's governing body, in 1906, but the relationship between FIFA and the British associations was fraught and the British nations withdrew from FIFA in 1928 in a dispute over payments to amateur players. As a result, Wales did not enter the first three World Cups.

In 1932 Wales played host to the Republic of Ireland, the first time they played against a side from outside the four home nations. A year later, Wales played a match outside the United Kingdom for the first time when they travelled to Paris to take on France in a match which was drawn 1–1.

Wales, along with the other four home nations, rejoined FIFA in 1946 and took part in the qualifying rounds for the 1950 World Cup, the 1949-50 Home Championships being designated as a qualifying group. The top two teams were to qualify for the finals in Brazil, but Wales finished bottom of the group.

The 1950s were undoubtedly a golden age for Welsh football with stars such as Ivor Allchurch, Alf Sherwood, Jack Kelsey and, of course, John Charles pulling on the famous red shirt and Wales made its only World Cup appearance in 1958. However, their qualification was fortunate to say the least. Having finished second to Czechoslovakia in qualifying Group 4, the Welsh thought their chances of appearing in Sweden were over. But the golden generation of Welsh football had reckoned without the politics of the Middle East.

Egypt and Sudan had refused to play against Israel whilst Indonesia had insisted on meeting Israel on neutral ground. As a result Israel were proclaimed winners of their respective group in the Asian/African zone.

FIFA were understandably reluctant to allow a team to qualify for the World Cup finals without actually playing a match and so lots were drawn of all the second placed teams in the UEFA qualifying groups. Belgium were drawn out of the hat but they refused and so then Wales was drawn and awarded a two-legged play-off match against Israel with a place in Sweden for the winners.

Having beaten Israel 2–0 at the Ramat Gan Stadium and 2–0 at Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales went through to the World Cup Finals for the first and, so far, only time.

The Welsh side made their mark in Sweden, drawing all the matches in their group against Hungary, Mexico, and Sweden before defeating the Hungarians in a play off match to reach the Quarter finals. There the Welsh lost 1–0 to eventual champions Brazil, with 17-year-old Pelé grabbing the only goal of the game for the South American side. However, Wales' chances of victory were hampered by the injury of John Charles.

Wales have never qualified for the final stages of the European Championships. However, in 1976, they did reach the last eight of the competition, having finished top of qualifying group 2 ahead of Hungary, Austria and Luxembourg. Prior to 1980, only four countries qualified for the final stages of the competition, and Wales were drawn to play against the winners of group 3 Yugoslavia, in a two legged match. Wales lost the first leg 2–0 in Zagreb and were knocked out of the competition having only managed a 1–1 draw in the return leg at Ninian Park.

The following year, Wales defeated England on English soil for the first time in 42 years and secured their only victory to date at Wembley thanks to a Leighton James penalty. Another notable achievement came in 1980, as Wales tore England apart in one of the best performances ever witnessed by a Welsh side. Goals from Mickey Thomas, Ian Walsh, Leighton James and an own goal by Phil Thompson saw Wales thrash England 4–1 at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, just four days after England had beaten the then-world champions, Argentina.

In the 1982 World Cup qualifiers, Wales came extremely close to qualification, a 3–0 defeat against the USSR in their final game meant they missed out on goal difference.

Manchester United youngster Mark Hughes marked his debut for Wales by scoring the only goal of the game as England were defeated once again in 1984. The following season, Hughes was again on target, scoring a wonder goal as Wales thrashed Spain 3–0 at The Racecourse during qualification for Mexico 86.

Wales came close, once again, to qualifying for a major championship when they came within a whisker of reaching the World Cup of 1994. Needing to win the final game of the group at home to Romania, Paul Bodin missed a penalty when the scores were level 1–1; Romania went on to win 2–1.

Following the failure to qualify, Terry Yorath's contract as manager of the national side was not renewed by the FAW and John Toshack, then manager of Real Sociedad, was appointed as a part-time manager. However, Toshack resigned after just one game — a 3–1 defeat to Norway — citing problems with the FAW as his reason for leaving, although he was sure to have been shocked at being booed off the pitch at Ninian Park by the Welsh fans still reeling from the dismissal of Yorath. Mike Smith took the reins for the start of the Euro 96 qualifiers, which saw Wales slip to embarrassing defeats against Moldova and Georgia before Bobby Gould was appointed in June 1995.

Gould's time in charge of Wales is seen as a dark period by Welsh football fans. His questionable tactics and public fallings-out with players such as Nathan Blake, Robbie Savage and Mark Hughes, coupled with embarrassing defeats to club side Leyton Orient and a 7–1 thrashing by the Netherlands in 1996 did not make him a popular figure within Wales. Gould finally resigned following a 4–0 defeat to Italy in 1999, and the FAW turned to two legends of the national team, Neville Southall and Mark Hughes to take temporary charge of the game against Denmark four days later, with Hughes later being appointed on a permanent basis.

Under Hughes, Wales came close to qualifying for the European Championships in 2004, losing in the play-offs for a place in Portugal against Russia. The defeat, however, was not without its controversy as Russian midfield player, Yegor Titov, tested positive for the use of a banned substance after the first qualifying leg, a scoreless draw in Moscow. However, the sport's governing body decided to take no action against the Football Union of Russia other than instructing them not to play Titov again, and the Russian team went on to beat Wales in Cardiff 1:0 to qualify for Euro 2004.

Following a disappointing start to the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, Hughes left his role with the national team to take over as manager of Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League. John Toshack was appointed manager for the second time on 12 November 2004.

In the qualification for Euro 2008, Wales were drawn in Group D alongside Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and San Marino. The team's performance was disappointing, finishing fifth in the group with expected defeat at home to Germany yet an unexpected draw away, a loss away and a goalless draw at home to the Czech Republic, a loss away and 2–2 draw at home to the Republic of Ireland, a 3–0 home win and uninspiring 2–1 away win against minnows San Marino, a 3–1 home win and 3–1 away defeat against Cyprus, and a spectacularly mixed performance against Slovakia — losing 5–1 at home and winning 5–2 away. However, better performances towards the end of the competition by a team containing, of necessity because of injuries and suspensions of senior players, no fewer than five players who were eligible for selection for the Under-21 squad has been viewed as a hopeful sign of future progress for the team.

In qualifying for the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa Wales made a promising start, winning 1-0 and 2-0 against Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein. Wales were unlucky to lose in Moscow after young gun Joe Ledley briefly drew them level with Russia, and held off Europe finalists Germany for seventy four minutes before going 1-0 down. The current squad features a significant number of young players, amongst them Cardiff City's Joe ledley, Chris Gunter and Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur, Sam Vokes of Wolverhampton and Ched Evans of Manchester City. Even cynic Robbie Savage was forced to admit that the future looked a lot brighter for Welsh football following these promising introductions.

Wales announced their squad for the friendly match against Poland, to be played on 11 February 2009 in Vila Real, Portugal, on 2 February 2009. The 27-man squad included uncapped Stockport County goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams, while forwards Craig Davies and the injured Robert Earnshaw were included at the expense of Coventry City's Freddy Eastwood. However, Davies and Earnshaw both withdrew from the squad as a result of their injuries, as did midfielders Simon Davies and Jason Koumas, and defenders James Collins and Craig Morgan. The withdrawal of Collins and Morgan left Lewin Nyatanga and Ashley Williams as the only recognised centre backs in the squad, and so Rhys Williams was called up from the Under-21 squad as cover.

Caps and goals are accurate as of the match played on 11 February 2009. Ages as of 11 February 2009.

Wales play most of their home matches at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. The stadium was built in 1999 on the site of the old National Stadium, known as Cardiff Arms Park, as the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) had been chosen to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Prior to 1989, Wales played their home games at the grounds of Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham, but then came to an agreement with the WRU to use Cardiff Arms Park and, subsequently, the Millennium Stadium.

Wales' first football match at the Millennium Stadium was against Finland on 29 March 2000. The Finns won the match 2–1, with Jari Litmanen becoming the first player to score a goal at the stadium. Ryan Giggs scored Wales' goal in the match, becoming the first Welshman to score at the stadium.

In recent seasons, a handful of friendly home matches have been played away from the Millennium Stadium at Swansea's Liberty Stadium and Wrexham's Racecourse Ground. However, due to recent price increases and a period with little success on the field, the 72,500 capacity stadium has only managed to fill around 20-40% of the seats, leading to calls by some for the football matches to return to Ninian Park, the Racecourse Ground and the Liberty Stadium.

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National Library of Wales

WNLW 08.jpg

The National Library of Wales (Welsh: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru) is the national legal deposit library of Wales, located in Aberystwyth. It is one of the Assembly Government Sponsored Bodies.

Cyril Evans, the library's centenary events co-ordinator highlighted, "The library is considered to be one of the world's greatest libraries, and its international reputation is certainly something that all Welsh men and women are intensely … proud of".

In 1873 a committee was set up to collect Welsh material and house it at the University College, Aberystwyth. In 1905 the government promised money in its Budget, and the Privy Council appointed a committee to decide on the location of the two institutions. Aberystwyth was selected as the location of the library after a bitter fight with Cardiff, partly because a collection was already available in the College. Sir John Williams, physician and book collector, had also said he would present his collection to the Library if it were established in Aberystwyth; he also eventually gave £20,000 to build and establish the library. Cardiff was eventually selected as the location of the National Museum of Wales. The Library and Museum were established by Royal Charter on 19 March 1907.

Designed by architect Sidney Greenslade who won the competition to design the building in 1909, the building at Grogythan, off Penglais Hill, was first occupied in 1916. The central block, or corps de logis, was added by Charles Holden to a modified version of Greenslade's design. In 1996 a large new storage building was opened, and in recent years many changes have been made to the front part of the building. A new Royal Charter was granted in 2006.

The building houses over 4 million printed volumes, including many rare books such as the first book printed in Welsh (Yn y lhyvyr hwnn, 1546) and the first Welsh translation of the complete Bible (1588). It also keeps many rare and important manuscripts including the Black Book of Carmarthen (the earliest surviving manuscript entirely in Welsh), the Book of Taliesin, and a manuscript of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. As a copyright depository, it is entitled to receive a copy of every published work from the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Its collecting policy is focused on Wales, Welsh-language and Celtic material.

The Library also contains the Welsh Political Archive and National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. It also keeps maps, photographs, paintings, topographical and landscape prints, periodicals and newspapers. It also holds the largest collection of archival material in Wales.

In 2000, Peter Bellwood stole at least fifty antique maps from the library, which were sold to private collectors for £70,000. Arrested in 2004, he was jailed for four and a half years..

Many of the most important manuscripts and books have been digitized and made freely available to view on the library's website in its Digital Mirror. The Library intends to digitize much of its image, sound and print collections over the ten years from 2008.

The Library is currently digitizing the back-numbers of 50 journals relating to Wales, in Welsh and English, in the Welsh Journals Online project funded by JISC. This will form the largest body of Welsh text on the Web, as well as allowing free access for all to scholarly articles on history, literature and science, and poems and book reviews. OCR of the page scans was undertaken to create TEI searchable text versions. The website will contain a total of 400,000 pages. After the project is complete, new issues of the titles will be added as they emerge from the embargo period agreed with the publisher.

The project has been criticised by the Academi and Society of Authors because no payment was offered to copyright holders for permission to include their material. The Library's position is that copyright holders are free to refuse if they wish, but that almost all have agreed.

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Source : Wikipedia