a reflective epilogue, Howell looks at how the old order was changing by the end of the eighteenth century. By the 1790s a rising population with no easy escape from Wales-that would come only with the railway-was showing signs of strain with increasing pauperization at the base of society and with it social rupture. Resentment of the gentry was building up, deference was breaking down, and would eventually collapse in the 1840s only to be resurrected subsequently to survive more or less intact down to World War I. This is an excellent book, thoroughly researched and clearly argued. My only reservation is that Howell's rural Wales is rather too insular. Admittedly eighteenth-century Wales was relatively backward, perhaps because of the levels of poverty, remoteness, and the prevalence of the Welsh language. However, this surely meant that there was scope for comparison not just with neighbouring England and occasionally Ireland, but also with the French and Spanish peasantry of the same period. While this book gives us a fascinating insight into Welsh society it would have been helpful to provide this broader contextual- isation, to give the reader an idea of just how poor rural Wales was in the eighteenth century. J. V. BECKETT Nottingham BRITISH Identities BEFORE NATIONAUSM: ETHNICITY AND NATIONHOOD IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD, 1600-1800. By Colin Kidd. Cambridge University Press, 1999. Pp. viii, 302. £ 35.00. This is a study of the currently fashionable subject of ethnic identity during a period when the term itself did not really exist. 'In a world structured around concepts of jurisdiction and allegiance,' Colin Kidd remarks in his Conclusion, 'the very notion of "identity" might itself be anachronistic' (p.291). What certainly did exist, and loomed large in the minds of educated people, was a sense of pedigree, lineage and ancestry. And it is this, explored in a variety of contexts and with remarkable erudition, that is Dr Kidd's theme. He starts with the Book of Genesis, still widely accepted in these centuries as an account of the evolution of world population and human language. It was from Noah that all peoples were believed to have sprung, Europeans from his eldest son, Japhet, and both the Celtic and Germanic peoples of the British Isles from Japhet's son, Gomer. Similarly, it was from the languages created by God after the building of the Tower of Babel that all current languages were derived- Welsh, according to the influential Abbe Pezron, being the least corrupted of European tongues, 'the language of the posterity of Gomer' (p. 67).