THE 'BILINGUAL DIFFICULTY': H.M.I. AND THE WELSH LANGUAGE IN THE VICTORIAN AGE It is a small but important tragedy if the H. M. I. goes away. Over 150 years the H.M.I, has been a force for good in education because it has reported objectively what is actually going on and because it has been a body of men and women who knew what they were talking about. (Eric Bolton, formerly Senior Chief H.M.I., October, 1991)1 GOVERNMENT proposals in 1991-92 to change the traditional inspection role of Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools aroused widespread concern. Critics of the proposed changes argued that for many years Her Majesty's Inspectorate had earned the respect of the teaching profession and all those concerned with education. It was contended that the Inspectorate was the embodiment of objectivity, fairness and enlightened guidance concerning the state of schools and standards of teaching and learning.2 While politicians determine the future of the Inspectorate, it is the task of the historian to unravel its past. In Wales, with the exception of the work of Sir O. M. Edwards as chief inspector, Board of Education (Welsh Department), 1907-20, the role of the Inspectorate has been neglected by historians. In particular, the inspectors' reports merit attention both for their valuable insights into educational conditions and attitudes, and also for their importance in the study of the social history of the Welsh language, and especially of the relationship between minority and majority languages. From the standpoint of the Welsh language, the first half-century of the Inspectorate's history was not an encouraging era. The original instructions to Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in 1840 had stipulated that 'inspection is not intended as a means of exercising control, but of affording assistance'.4 In Wales, however, over the next fifty years, the evidence of the inspectors' reports shows that the Welsh language was to be subject to rigorous controls at the behest of H.M.I. Its policy concerning the Welsh The Guardian, 3 October 1991. 2 W. G. Evans, 'History has its lessons', Western Mail, 11 December 1991. The few exceptions are Geraint Bowen, 'Yr Arolygiaeth a'r Gymraeg'. Y Faner, 22, 29 Gorffennaf. 1977; E. N. Williams in W. G. Evans (ed.), Perspectives on a Century of Secondary Education in Wales (Aberystwyth, 1990); J. E. Hughes, Arloeswr Dwyieithedd: Dan Isaac Davies, 1829-1887 (Cardiff 1984); E. D. Jones, 'The Journal of William Roberts 'Nefydd', 1853-62'. Nat. Lib. Wales Journal, III (1953-541 199-220. 4 Minutes of the Committee of Council (1840-1), pp. 1 par. 5.