Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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PIERCE , THOMAS JONES ( 1905 - 1964 ), historian ;

b. 18 Mar. 1905 at Liverpool to John and Winifred Pierce . He was educated at the Liverpool Collegiate School and Liverpool University where he graduated with first-class honours in the School of Medieval and Modern History in 1927 . He was awarded the Chadwick Scholarship ( 1927 ), the Gladstone Memorial Prize ( 1928 ) and the degree of M.A. ( 1929 ). Following a brief period as a University Fellow he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in the department of History , University College of North Wales , Bangor , with additional duties in the dept. of extra-mural studies in 1930 . In 1945 he was invited to take up the post of Special Lecturer in Medieval Welsh History at the University College of Wales , Aberystwyth , an appointment made jointly by the college and the National Library of Wales . He was promoted Research Professor in 1948 and elected F.S.A. in 1950 . He was a researcher at the National Library ( Clenennau letters and papers was published in 1947 ), a very effective lecturer at the college and in extra-mural classes and local societies, and he was active in other fields as editor of Caernarvonshire Hist. Soc. Trans. ( 1939-63 ), chairman of the society's Council ( 1962-64 ), secretary of the Cambrian Archaeological Association ( 1946-55 ), chairman of its general committee ( 1956-64 ), and its president ( 1964 ). He was High Sheriff of Cardiganshire 1960-61 , and he was a keen Rotarian .

He m. Margaret (Megan) Williams in 1944 and they had one daughter and one son. They made their home at Brynhyfryd , Tal-y-bont, Cards. He d. in Aberystwyth 9 Oct. 1964 and was cremated at Anfield Crematorium , Liverpool .

T. Jones Pierce had been a pupil of William Garmon Jones at Liverpool but he was greatly influenced by John Edward Lloyd (see above) whose colleague he was at Bangor . In turn he himself inspired generations of young Welsh historians and was acknowledged to be one of the most creative Welsh historians of his day. He was a pioneer in the study of the problems associated with the decay of tribalism and the development of the landed estates . He published a number of studies of the social structure of Welsh rural communities in the middle ages and the changes in forms of land tenure . He was one of the first to analyse in detail the evidence of the Welsh Laws for the operation of galanas and tir gwely , and his demonstration of the dynamic, developmental elements in the medieval law-books and the exercise of the law in the courts shed much light on the complexities of medieval land tenure. His studies of 13th-century Gwynedd are essential for our understanding of the economic, political and constitutional development of that province. He did not succeed in completing a book on these themes but his major articles have been collected (together with a bibliography of his writings) by J. Beverley Smith , Medieval Welsh society ( 1974 ).


  • J. B Smith , op. cit. ;
  • Glanville Jones , Caernarvonshire Historical Society Transactions , 26 (1965) , 9-19;
  • E. D. Jones , Archaeologia Cambrensis , 113 (1964) ; 170-2;
  • J. Gwynn Williams , Welsh History Review , 1965 , 271-3.


Dr Brynley Francis Roberts, Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001