Mark S. Weiner

Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category


In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Animals, Books and libraries, Europe, State development, Wales on September 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm

At Sotheby’s auction house this July, a single medieval manuscript sold for £541,250, or about $879,000. At over $8,700 per page, the price strikes me as a bargain, if not a steal. Why? The reason has to do with the extraordinary history of the country my wife and I saw as we walked along Offa’s Dyke and looked to the west, across the River Wye and into the distant green hills. It also has to do with the number three.

Although it’s part of the United Kingdom, Wales has a long, proud history of legal independence. Even after the country was united with England under Henry VIII, the Welsh administered English law in their own court, the Court of Great Sessions, for almost three hundred years, until 1830. Today, guided by the evocative expression “Legal Wales,” the country is developing a range of autonomous legal institutions and practices as part of devolution.

The stakes of this process are high. If in time it leads to a fully independent Welsh nation, for which an independent system of law would be a prerequisite, the politics of Britain and Europe would be profoundly changed. Read the rest of this entry »

A Walk in Wales, Part II

In Border regions, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Europe, State development, Wales on September 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm

As my wife and I walked across Wales this summer, we developed an inside joke that probably only a couple of historians on vacation could find quite as hilarious as we did. Whatever sight happened to be before us—whether an ancient, ruined castle, a range of green hills in the distance, or the ham and cheese sandwiches in our backpack—we described (in grandiloquent tones, often with one arm outstretched) in terms of the number three. Thus:

Three are the towers on that fine fortress of Edward I!”

Three are the delicious ales we have consumed this evening!”

Three are the miles we walked totally off course earlier this afternoon!”

Forgive us. Like I said, we were on vacation, and we were overcome by mirth. We were also entertaining ourselves with a sly reference to an especially interesting—and revealing—feature of Welsh legal history.

Read the rest of this entry »

An ending, a beginning, an invitation

In Autobiographical, Wales, Welcome on September 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm

The stout man in the beekeeper’s outfit waved as we approached him on the trail from Machynlleth to Llanbrynmair. “You must be the Weiners,” he said as he took off his helmet and smiled.

“We—we are,” I replied, dumbfounded to be recognized on a secluded byway in the Welsh midlands. “How on earth did you know?”

“Who else could you possibly be, then? Only one or two people pass by here every day. You’ll be staying with me tonight. I’m your innkeeper.”


It was another typical encounter in Wales—a warm welcome extended in a remote, green landscape. This summer, my wife and I walked 350 miles through that lush country, roaming over hill and dale, or bryn and cwm, just after lambing season, when the fields echoed with the sweet, insistent bleating of sheep and their young.

The walk marked both an ending and a beginning for us, and we walked with a purpose. Read the rest of this entry »