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The Carmarthenshire Historian


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That history repeats itself is a proposition commended by all and supported by none. Thus we are persuaded by the pundits, but still keep an open ear for the preacher who said there is no new thing under the sun.

In the fulness of time Alexander becomes Napoleon, all-conquering, and Hitler is the brute heir of Nero, incinerating Jews in place of Christians. It has all happened before, says the man in the street, and it will happen again. Vandals flourish, bullies triumph, martyrs suffer and men go on endeavouring to the utmost for the highest though truth is worsted and deceit insinuates. It is ever so. The pattern changes, but the warp and woof of people and events remain the same. The thing that hath been, it is the thing which shall be, saith the preacher; it hath been already of old time.

All this in the larger sense. In a smaller context of time and place the talk and doings in Carmarthen a century ago are not unfamiliar in our own scene. More wages, higher living standards, leisure for the masses, nationalism, xenophobia, unruly behaviour and a lot more are patent symptoms of contemporary society, but they are not exclusive to our time, as Mr. D. L. Baker-Jones reminds us in the present volume of The Carmarthenshire Historian in recalling the National Eisteddfod at Carmarthen in 1867.

Said one, during that earlier ritual week of cultural gratification, the time had come for the lower classes to acquire the intellectual hobbies and interests of the upper classes. He was thinking in terms of natural history and the goings-on of moths and butterflies; butter-fly nets for all would bring emancipation, if not equality. There was talk of rural depopulation and emigration. Narrow nationalism was condemned, but an anti-English faction vociferated nevertheless. They even had unruly behaviour like we have. It was said that improved wages and conditions made it possible for people to enjoy the better things in life; even the tastes of the masses could be refined, extended and elevated. Just what we have been saying in our time. But there is one great difference: they had natural history, we all of us have telly providing culture on tap. Otherwise we still have an affluent class those who boast colour TV in the domestic sanctum.

But the pundits are right all the same: history does not repeat itself. It is just that things change and the more they change the more they remain the same.
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