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Lewis Jones

Cwmardy & We Live

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A Library of Wales two-volume edition

One of the great novel sequences of the British working-class people framed in the valleys and coal-mining villages of south Wales in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Written by miner, union organiser and activist Lewis Jones, Cwmardy is the story of Big Jim, collier and Boer war soldier and his wife Siân as they strive to wrest a decent life from dire conditions despite the exploitation of mine owners and the apathy of a distant and uncaring political class.

In We Live, their son Len emerges as a sharp-thinker and dynamic political organiser. He is influenced by Mary, a teacher, and the politics of the Communist Party, which will become central to his work both underground and with the union. It will ultimately lead to his decision to leave and fight in the Spanish Civil War.

Echoing the European classics of Zola and Maupassant, the lives of Big Jim, Siân, Len and Mary reflect the changing times of a turbulent world which will see them survive strikes, riots, and biting poverty while the dark shadows of a world war gather to offer an uncertain future.


Lewis Jones was a man of his time, an autodidact, like many in the factories and mines. He was a union organiser and gifted public orator. He wrote the two books to directly inspire the working-class people he was part of. He died in 1939 on a day he reputedly made thirty speeches in one day. We Live was unfinished at the time of his death and was completed by his partner and fellow activist Mavis Llewellyn. It was first published in 1937.