The Welsh Way of Colonisation in Patagonia: The International Politics of Moral Superiority

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This article explores the ‘myth of friendship’ between the Welsh and indigenous communities of Patagonia in the mid to late nineteenth century. Drawing on extensive archival research, it unpacks the purpose of this myth which is to demonstrate the moral superiority of the Welsh nation. The proof of Welsh righteousness derives not only from their peaceful, loving approach to colonisation in Patagonia but from stories which recount that the ‘Indians’ loved them back. This technique of elevation works because it is framed by the international politics of colonial expansion, thus the Welsh settlers compare themselves favourably to the violent and oppressive actions of the British Empire and Argentine state. This assertion of moral superiority is not only a way to raise the position of the Welsh nation on the global stage, it targets those who enforce Welsh political and linguistic subordination, both in Wales (the English elite) and as settlers (the Argentine government). In this way, their claim to high status and national dignity based on ‘righteousness’ is an act of resistance, as well as elevation. I conclude that this new interpretation of Y Wladfa (the colony) offers fresh insight to understandings of Welsh internationalism. Moreover, its reflections on the use of moral capital as a tool of resistance might find wider parallels. Certainly, I argue, the persistence of the ‘myth of friendship’ continues to conceal the brutal reality of indigenous dispossession
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1073-1099
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number6
Early online date15 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 02 Nov 2019


  • settler colonialism
  • Wales
  • Patagonia
  • indigenous
  • international politics
  • nineteenth century
  • Argentina
  • Y Wladfa
  • righteousness
  • Settler colonialism


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