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The University of Southampton

Southampton historian joins the debate on Cornish identity

Published: 29 April 2014Origin: History
Professor Mark Stoyle

University of Southampton historian Professor Mark Stoyle took part in discussions on BBC Radio 4 about the people of Cornwall on the day the UK Government announced they would be recognised as a national minority for the first time.

He contributed to the World at One news programme on 24 April about the decision to give the Cornish the same rights and protections as the peoples of Scotland, Wales and Ireland, following a recommendation by the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Mark told presenter Shaun Lay that an Italian visitor in 1535 made reference to the English, Welsh, Scottish and Cornish as separate peoples. “In the time of the Tudors and Stuarts, Cornwall was regarded as a different entity or province, but the decline of the Cornish language during that time saw a decline in Cornish ethnic identity too,” he explains. “By 1700, there were only around 5,000 Cornish speakers. Now, there is renewed interest in the language and much debate on what it means to be Cornish in the 21st century.”

Following his appearance on BBC national radio, Mark was also interviewed by BBC Radio Wales: “You could argue that Cornwall is part of a Celtic connection between Wales and Brittany in terms of culture and language,” he adds.

The academic, who himself grew up in neighbouring Devon, has written a book and a number of articles about Cornish identity and is often asked to speak on the subject. Mark is also interested in Cornwall’s role in the English Civil War and how religious practices during the time of the Tudors and Stuarts affected the peninsula.

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