John Davies was one of the leading historians of his generation, and was primarily recognised as the author of the definitive volume, Hanes Cymru (A History of Wales) – a pioneering and authoritative volume which forms the cornerstone of any reading list for students of the subject across the world.
However, if that could be said to be the highlight of John Davies’s academic career, the Coleg recognised him for his notable contributions to the national movement and to the fortunes of the Welsh language.
John Davies was one of the founders of the Welsh Language Society at Pontarddulais in 1962, and with Tedi Millward, as the Society’s first Secretaries, arranged the protest on that historic day in Aberystwyth in February 1963.
We also remember that he provided pastoral care for generations of Welsh-speaking students as warden, for eighteen years, of the first Welsh language student hall of residence at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth: Neuadd Pantycelyn.
A native of Rhondda, he received his education in schools at Treorchy, Bwlchllan and Tregaron before attending University College Cardiff and Trinity College Cambridge. Having completed research on the family links of the Bute family with the city of Cardiff he was appointed lecturer at Swansea University.
In the early 1970s he moved to Aberystwyth where he lectured, mainly through the medium of Welsh, at the Department of History and Welsh History. With other academics who taught in Welsh within the higher education sector during that time, John Davies and others worked to further the cause of Welsh-medium studies and scholarship, paving the way for the later campaign to establish a Welsh Federal College.
His numerous publications include Cardiff and the Marquesses of Bute, Broadcasting and the BBC in Wales, The Celts, and The Making of Wales. He contributed to The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales as co-editor and in 2010 he was awarded the Book of the Year prize for Cymru: 100 Lle i’w Gweld cyn Marw (Wales: 100 Places to see Before you Die). At the 2005 Machynlleth Festival he received the Glyndŵr Prize for his contribution to the arts in Wales.