Press Releases 2014-2015

Eminent academic who was awarded UWTSD Doctorate publishes book


Professor Angela John, a biographer and prominent Welsh academic who has led research into the history of women in society will be releasing a book on 10th of November. The book titled The Actors' Crucible examines the stories behind acting legends from the south Wales steel town of Port Talbot. The book explores what is it about this much-maligned industrial community that has produced superstars such as Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen.

Angela, who received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David last year is originally from Port Talbot, and  returned to live and write in Wales some years ago, settling on the north Pembrokeshire coast.

Her new book, The Actor’s Crucible, explores the lives of the acting superstars before they became famous and presents their emergence as part of a rich culture and commitment to drama long embedded in the town’s history. She shows the importance of the unsung heroes who helped to nurture talent through schools, youth centres and youth theatre. Drawing on extensive interviews, she explains how and why Port Talbot has also generated other famous faces, from Ronald Lewis and Ivor Emmanuel to more recent performers like Rob Brydon and Di Botcher, along with a cluster of exciting young actors beginning to make their mark on both London’s West End stage and the big and small screen.

Angela was an undergraduate student in Medieval and Modern History at Birmingham University, before moving to Swansea to complete her MA and then to Manchester to complete her doctorate.

For the next thirty years, she spent most of her time lecturing, initially in Kent then in London. From 1989 until 2004, she was Professor of History at the University of Greenwich (previously Thames Polytechnic) where she loved working with students. Her own research and publishing developed alongside teaching. Initially fascinated by labour history, Angela was part of the generation influenced by E.P.Thompson’s ‘History from Below’ and had been taught at Birmingham by Dorothy Thompson.

In the early 1970s women’s history came into its own and Angela was fortunate enough to be part of that exciting development, working on women’s employment in Victorian Britain and later on gender history and suffrage. Her first book ‘By The Sweat of Their Brow’ was a pioneering study of women’s employment at British coalmines. She also wrote an award-winning book for schools called ‘Coalmining Women’ and was a founder member of the editorial board of the international journal ‘Gender & History’.

In recent years Angela has become fascinated by the creation and structuring of biography and now sees herself as a biographical historian, writing about the period alongside the person: a modern version of ‘Life and Times’.

Note to Editor

  1. For more information please contact Sara Jones, PR and Communications Officer, on 07449 998 478 or via email at
  2. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was established in 2010 through the merger of the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College, Carmarthen. On 1 August 2013 the Swansea Metropolitan University merged with the University
  3. The University’s Royal Charter 1828 is the oldest in Wales, and it is third behind Oxford and Cambridge in Wales and England. HRH Prince of Wales is the Patron of the University
  4. On 1 August, 2013 Coleg Sir Gâr merged with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David Group, however they will keep their own brand. Coleg Ceredigion merged with the Group on 1 January 2014