Kenneth O. Morgan

Kenneth Owen Morgan, Baron Morgan, FRHistS FBA FLSW (born 16 May 1934) is a Welsh historian and author, known especially for his writings on modern British history and politics and on Welsh history. He is a regular reviewer and broadcaster on radio and television. He has been an influential intellectual resource in the Labour Party.

The Lord Morgan

Member of the House of Lords
Assumed office
12 June 2000
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth
In office
Preceded byGareth Owen
Succeeded byDerec Llwyd Morgan
Personal details
Born16 May 1934 (age 84)
Political partyLabour
  • Jane Morgan (d. 1992)
  • Elizabeth Gibson (m. 2009)
Alma materOriel College, Oxford


He grew up in rural Wales and attended Aberdovey Council School in rural Wales, University College School in Hampstead (in London), and Oriel College, Oxford. The first two appealed to him. As for Oxford he recalled, "The disagreeable nature of the undergraduates was matched by the mediocrity of the tutors. They were astonishingly poor.... All in all, Oriel seemed more like a backwoods seminary of mid-Victorian days than a modern educational institution."[1] He had better luck outside his insular college. "On the intellectual side, I attended a variety of lectures which seemed to me brilliant and what I really needed in Oxford, by people like Asa Briggs, Christopher Hill, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and the incomparable and deeply entertaining Alan Taylor."[2] He returned to Oxford for doctoral work, specializing in the role of Wales in British politics in the late 19th century, with a focus on Gladstone. He greatly enjoyed graduate work, taking his DPhil in 1958.

He taught at University of Wales Swansea from 1958 to 1966 and held an ACLS Fellowship at Columbia University, New York in 1962 -63, also teaching there in 1965. He was a Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford, from 1966 to 1989 and served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales from 1989 to 1995. In this capacity, he served as a Welsh Supernumerary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford from 1991 to 1992. He was principal of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in the 1990s.

In 1983 he was elected Fellow of the British Academy and in 1992 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford, and in 2002 of Oriel College. He became a Druid of the Gorsedd of Bards in 2008 and in 2009 received the gold medal from the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion for lifetime achievement. He is also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.


Morgan is a member of the Labour Party, and on 12 June 2000 he was made a life peer as Baron Morgan, of Aberdyfi in the County of Gwynedd.[3] He has served on the Lords Select Committee on the Constitution.[4]


He was married to the historian and criminologist Jane Morgan, who died in 1992; they had two children together, David and Katherine. In 2009 he married Elizabeth Gibson, senior lecturer in law at the universities of Tours and Bordeaux. They have four grandchildren.


Kenneth Morgan is the author of many acclaimed works, such as The People's Peace, his notable history of postwar Britain, and has completed biographies of many famous politicians, including David Lloyd George, Keir Hardie, James Callaghan, and Michael Foot. He is the editor of the best-selling The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, to which he contributed the two final chapters (1914–2000 and 2000–10), and which has sold close on a million copies.

He also edited the Welsh History Review from 1961 to 2003. Wales in British Politics, 1868–1922, dealt with the enlarged franchise, the campaign for disestablishment, Home Rule legislation (mainly with regard to Ireland) and contrasting attitudes to an imminent World War. Freedom or Sacrilege dealt with contrasting stances on the issue of Welsh church disestablishment but where he came down in favour of the freedom obtained under the latter.

Labour history

In the 1950s to 1970s, labour history was redefined and expanded in focus by a number of historians, amongst whom the most prominent and influential figures were E. P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm. The motivation came from current left-wing politics in Britain and the United States and reached red-hot intensity. Morgan was a more traditional liberal historian who followed the new trends and explains their dynamic:

the ferocity of argument owed more to current politics, the unions’ winter of discontent [in 1979], and rise of a hard-left militant tendency within the world of academic history as well as within the Labour Party. The new history was often strongly Marxist, which fed through the work of brilliant evangelists like Raphael Samuel into the New Left Review, a famous journal like Past and Present, the Society of Labour History and the work of a large number of younger scholars engaged in the field. Non-scholars like Tony Benn joined in. The new influence of Marxism upon Labour studies came to affect the study of history as a whole.[5]

Morgan sees benefits:

In many ways, this was highly beneficial: it encouraged the study of the dynamics of social history rather than a narrow formal institutional view of labour and the history of the Labour Party; it sought to place the experience of working people within a wider technical and ideological context; it encouraged a more adventurous range of sources, ‘history from below’ so-called, and rescued them from what Thompson memorably called the ‘condescension of posterity’; it brought the idea of class centre-stage in the treatment of working-class history, where I had always felt it belonged; it shed new light on the poor and dispossessed for whom the source materials were far more scrappy than those for the bourgeoisie, and made original use of popular evidence like oral history, not much used before.[6]

Morgan tells of the downside as well:

But the Marxist – or sometimes Trotskyist – emphasis in Labour studies was too often doctrinaire and intolerant of non-Marxist dissent–it was also too often plain wrong, distorting the evidence within a narrow doctrinaire framework. I felt it incumbent upon me to help rescue it. But this was not always fun. I recall addressing a history meeting in Cardiff...when, for the only time in my life, I was subjected to an incoherent series of attacks of a highly personal kind, playing the man not the ball, focusing on my accent, my being at Oxford and the supposedly reactionary tendencies of my empiricist colleagues.[6]


  • David Lloyd George, Welsh Radical as World Statesman (1963)
  • Wales in British Politics, 1868-1922 (1963, rev ed 1992)
  • Freedom or Sacrilege (1966)
  • The Age of Lloyd George (1971)
  • (ed.) Lloyd George, Family Letters (1973)
  • Lloyd George (1974)
  • Keir Hardie, Radical and Socialist (1975)
  • Consensus and Disunity (1979) (a study of Lloyd George's postwar coalition, 1918–22)
  • (jointly) Portrait of a Progressive (1980)
  • David Lloyd George (1981)
  • Rebirth of a Nation: Wales 1880-1980, part of the Oxford History of Wales (1981)
  • Labour in Power, 1945-1951 (1984)
  • (joint ed.) Welsh Society and Nationhood (1984)
  • (ed.) The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain (1984, many rev eds down to 2009, almost lm.copies sold)
  • Labour People (1987, rev ed 1992)
  • (ed.) The Oxford History of Britain (1987, rev ed 2010)
  • The Red Dragon and the Red Flag (1989)
  • Britain and Europe (1995)
  • The People's Peace: Britain since 1945 (1989, rev ed 2001)
  • Modern Wales, Politics, Places and People (1995)
  • (ed.) The Young Oxford of Britain and Ireland (1996)
  • Callaghan: A Life (1997)
  • (ed.) Crime, Police and Protest in Modern British Society (1999)
  • The Great Reform Act of 1832 (2001)
  • The Twentieth Century (2001)
  • Universities and the State (2002)
  • Michael Foot: A Life (2007)
  • Ages of Reform (2011)
  • (ed.) 'David Lloyd George 1863 - 2013' (2013)
  • Revolution to Devolution: Reflections on Welsh Democracy (2014)
  • My Histories (2015)



  1. ^ Kenneth O. Morgan, My Histories (2015) p 34
  2. ^ Morgan, My Histories (2015) p 35
  3. ^ "No. 55876". The London Gazette. 15 June 2000. p. 6507.
  4. ^ "Kenneth O. Morgan". King's College London. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  5. ^ Kenneth O. Morgan, My Histories (University of Wales Press, 2015) p 85.
  6. ^ a b Morgan, My Histories (2015) p 86.


Academic offices
Preceded by
Gareth Owen
Principal, then Vice-Chancellor of
the University of Wales Aberystwyth

Succeeded by
Derec Llwyd Morgan
1921 Cardiganshire by-election

The Cardiganshire by-election, 1921 was a parliamentary by-election held for the British House of Commons constituency of Cardiganshire on 18 February 1921. The election was important for the bitterness of the contest between the Coalition and Independent factions within the Liberal Party and the deepening of this division within the party as a factor in the long term decline of Liberalism in Wales.

Agriculture Act 1947

The Agriculture Act 1947 was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom passed by Clement Attlee's post-war Labour government.

Anti-Waste League

The Anti-Waste League was a political party in the United Kingdom, founded in 1921 by the newspaper proprietor Lord Rothermere.

BBC History

BBC History Magazine is a British publication devoted to history articles on both British and world history and are aimed at all levels of knowledge and interest. The publication releases thirteen editions a year, one per month and a Christmas special edition, and is owned by BBC Studios but is published under license by the Immediate Media Company. BBC History is the biggest selling history magazine in the UK and is growing in circulation by nearly 7% every year.The magazine consists of topical features, often aligning with programming currently showing on BBC Radio and Television and written by academic historians, historical analysis of news events and comparison with similar previous events, reviews of new books and media and features into significant locations in history.


Bevanism was the ideological argument for the Bevanites, a movement on the left wing of the Labour Party in the late 1950s and typified by Aneurin Bevan. Also called 'the Old Left', it was named after its dominant personality; however its intellectual direction was given by Richard Crossman and his followers including Michael Foot and Barbara Castle. Bevanism was opposed by the Gaitskellites, who are variously described as centre-left, social democrats, or "moderates" within the party.

The Gaitskellites typically won most of the battles inside Parliament, but Bevanism was stronger among local Labour activists. Bevanites split over the issue of nuclear weapons, and the movement faded away after Bevan died in 1960.

D. A. Thomas

David Alfred Thomas, 1st Viscount Rhondda, PC (26 March 1856 – 3 July 1918) was a Welsh industrialist and Liberal politician. He was UK Member of Parliament (MP) for Merthyr Tydfil from 1888 until the January 1910 general election, then MP for Cardiff until the December 1910 general election, when he left politics to concentrate on his business interests. He was made a member of the Privy Council in 1916. He later held office, notably as "Food Controller" in Lloyd George's wartime coalition government.

Festival of Britain

The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition and fair that reached millions of visitors throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of 1951. Historian Kenneth O. Morgan says the Festival was a "triumphant success" as people:

flocked to the South Bank site, to wander around the Dome of Discovery, gaze at the Skylon, and generally enjoy a festival of national celebration. Up and down the land, lesser festivals enlisted much civic and voluntary enthusiasm. A people curbed by years of total war and half-crushed by austerity and gloom, showed that it had not lost the capacity for enjoying itself....Above all, the Festival made a spectacular setting as a showpiece for the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists.

Labour cabinet member Herbert Morrison was the prime mover; in 1947 he started with the original plan to celebrate the centennial of the Great Exhibition of 1851. However it was not to be another World Fair, for international themes were absent, as was the British Commonwealth. Instead the 1951 festival focused entirely on Britain and its achievements; it was funded chiefly by the government, with a budget of £12 million. The Labour government was losing support and so the implicit goal of the festival was to give the people a feeling of successful recovery from the war's devastation , as well as promoting British science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts.

The Festival's centrepiece was in London on the South Bank of the Thames. There were events in Poplar (Architecture), Battersea (The Festival Pleasure Gardens), South Kensington (Science) and Glasgow (Industrial Power). Festival celebrations took place in Cardiff, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Perth, Bournemouth, York, Aldeburgh, Inverness, Cheltenham, Oxford, Norwich, Canterbury and elsewhere and there were touring exhibitions by land and sea.

The Festival became a "beacon for change" that proved immensely popular with thousands of elite visitors and millions of popular ones. It helped reshape British arts, crafts, designs and sports for a generation. Journalist Harry Hopkins highlights the widespread impact of the "Festival style". They called it "Contemporary". It was:

clean, bright and new.... It caught hold quickly and spread first across London and then across England....In an island hitherto largely given up to gravy browns and dull greens, "Contemporary" boldly espoused strong primary colors.

Genoa Conference (1922)

The Genoa Economic and Financial Conference was a formal conclave of 34 nations held in Genoa, Italy from 10 April to 19 May 1922. It was planned by British prime minister David Lloyd George to resolve the major economic and political issues facing Europe, and to deal with the pariah nations of Germany and Russia, both of which had been excluded from the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The conference was particularly interested in developing a strategy to rebuild defeated Germany, as well as central and eastern Europe, and to negotiate a relationship between European capitalist economies and the new Bolshevik regime in Soviet Russia. However Russia and Germany signed a separate agreement at Rapallo and the result at Genoa was a fiasco with few positive results. The conference did come up with a proposal for resuming the gold standard that was largely put in place by major countries.

Herbert Morrison

Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, (3 January 1888 – 6 March 1965) was a British Labour politician who held a variety of senior positions in the Cabinet.

During the inter-war period, he was Minister of Transport during the 1929-31 Labour Government, then, after losing his seat in Parliament in 1931, became Leader of the London County Council in the 1930s. Returning to the Commons in 1935, he was defeated by Clement Attlee in the Labour leadership election that year, but later acted as Home Secretary in the wartime coalition.

Morrison organised Labour's victorious 1945 election campaign, and was appointed Leader of the House of Commons and Deputy Prime Minister in Attlee's governments of 1945–51. Attlee, Morrison, Ernest Bevin, Stafford Cripps and (initially) Hugh Dalton formed the "Big Five" who dominated those governments. Morrison oversaw Labour's nationalisation programme, although he opposed Aneurin Bevan's proposals for a nationalised hospital service as part of the setting up of the National Health Service. Morrison developed his social views from his work in local politics and always emphasised the importance of public works to deal with unemployment. In the final year of Attlee's premiership, Morrison had an unhappy term as Foreign Secretary. He was hailed as "Lord Festival" for his successful leadership of the Festival of Britain, a critical and popular success in 1951 that attracted millions of visitors to fun-filled educational exhibits and events in London and across the country.

Morrison was widely expected to succeed Attlee as Labour leader, but Attlee, who disliked him, postponed stepping down until 1955. Morrison, who was by then considered too old, came a poor third in the ensuing Labour leadership election.

James Winstone

James Winstone (9 February 1863 – 27 July 1921) was a British trade unionist

Born in Risca, Winstone worked from the age of eight, first at a local brickworks, then at Risca United Colliery. He was elected checkweighman, and worked with William Brace to campaign against the sliding pay scale. As a result, he was a prominent founder member of the South Wales Miners' Federation (SWMF) in 1898.Winstone was also active in the Independent Labour Party, and was a Baptist lay preacher. He was elected for the Labour Party to Risca Urban District Council, then to Abersychan council, which he chaired in 1911. In 1907, he was elected to Monmouthshire County Council. He stood at Monmouth Boroughs at the 1906 general election, but received no backing from his union, and was not elected. In 1912, he was elected as Vice President of the SWMF, the first socialist to such a position. He was selected as the Labour candidate for the Merthyr Tydfil by-election, 1915, the seat having previously been held by Keir Hardie, but he was defeated by Charles Butt Stanton of the British Workers League, who had resigned as a miners' agent to run with Conservative and Liberal support as a pro-war independent labour candidate. In 1915, he replaced Brace as union president, serving until his death. He also stood in Merthyr at the 1918 general election, but was again unsuccessful. In 1920, he chaired Monmouthshire County Council.

Jim Griffiths

James Griffiths (19 September 1890 – 7 August 1975) was a Welsh Labour politician, trade union leader and the first Secretary of State for Wales.

Keir Hardie

James Keir Hardie (15 August 1856 – 26 September 1915) was a Scottish trade unionist and politician. He was a founder of the Labour Party, and served as its first parliamentary leader from 1906 to 1908.

Hardie was born in Newhouse, North Lanarkshire. He started working at the age of seven, and from the age of 10 worked in the South Lanarkshire coal mines. With a background in preaching, he became known as a talented public speaker and was chosen as a spokesman for his fellow miners. In 1879, Hardie was elected leader of a miners' union in Hamilton and organised a National Conference of Miners in Dunfermline. He subsequently led miners' strikes in Lanarkshire (1880) and Ayrshire (1881). He turned to journalism to make ends meet, and from 1886 was a full-time union organiser as secretary of the Ayrshire Miners' Union.

Hardie initially supported William Gladstone's Liberal Party, but later concluded that the working class needed its own party. He first stood for parliament in 1888 as an independent, and later that year helped form the Scottish Labour Party. Hardie won the English seat of West Ham South as an independent candidate in 1892, and helped to form the Independent Labour Party (ILP) the following year. He lost his seat in 1895, but was re-elected to parliament in 1900 for a Welsh constituency. In the same year he helped to form the union-based Labour Representation Committee, which was later renamed the Labour Party.

After the 1906 election, Hardie was chosen as the Labour Party's first parliamentary leader. He resigned in 1908 in favour of Arthur Henderson, and spent his remaining years campaigning for specific causes, such as women's suffrage, self-rule for India, and opposition to World War I. He died in 1915 while attempting to organise a pacifist general strike. Hardie is seen as a key figure in the history of the Labour Party and has been the subject of multiple biographies. Kenneth O. Morgan has called him "Labour's greatest pioneer and its greatest hero".

Kenneth Morgan

Kenneth Morgan may refer to:

Kenneth Morgan (Shi'a), American religious leader, academic & author on Islam, see Shi'a Islam (book)

Kenneth O. Morgan (born 1934), Welsh historian and author

Kenneth W. Morgan (1908–2011), American scholar of religion

Labor history (discipline)

Labor history or labour history is a sub-discipline of social history which specialises on the history of the working classes and the labor movement. The central concerns of labor historians include industrial relations and forms of labor protest (strikes, lock-outs), the rise of mass politics (especially the rise of socialism) and the social and cultural history of the industrial working classes. Labor historians may also concern themselves with issues of gender, race, ethnicity and other factors besides class but chiefly focus on urban or industrial societies which distinguishes it from rural history.

Labour government, 1974–1979

The Labour Party governed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1974–1979. Harold Wilson and James Callaghan were appointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom respectively by Queen Elizabeth II. The end of the Callaghan ministry was marked by the Winter of Discontent, a period of serious industrial discontent. This was followed by the election of Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Historian Kenneth O. Morgan states:

The fall of James Callaghan in the summer of 1979 met, according to most commentators across the political spectrum, meant the end of an ancien régime, a system of corporatism, Keynesian spending programmes, subsidised welfare, and trade union power.The government consisted of three ministries: the third Wilson ministry, the fourth Wilson ministry, and then the Callaghan ministry.

National Insurance Act 1946

The National Insurance Act 1946 (c 67) was a British Act of Parliament which established a comprehensive system of social security throughout the United Kingdom.

R. A. C. Parker

Robert Alexander Clarke Parker (Barnsley, Yorkshire, 15 June 1927 - Oxford, 23 April 2001) was a British historian, specialising in British appeasement of Nazi Germany and the Second World War. Fellow historian Kenneth O. Morgan called him "perhaps the leading authority on the international crises of the 1930s, appeasement and the coming of war".At the University of Manchester Parker was a lecturer in History from 1952 to 1957 and was then a Fellow in Modern History at The Queen's College, Oxford until 1994. Parker was an admirer of Winston Churchill and held Old Labour views.

Rees Davies

Sir Robert Rees Davies, (6 August 1938 – 16 May 2005), was a Welsh historian.

Stafford Cripps

Sir Richard Stafford Cripps, (24 April 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a British Labour politician of the first half of the twentieth century.

A wealthy barrister by background, he entered Parliament at a by-election in 1931, and was one of a handful of Labour front-benchers to retain his seat in the general election that autumn. He became a leading spokesman for the left-wing and cooperation in a Popular Front with Communists before 1939, in which year he was expelled from the Labour Party. During World War II he served as Ambassador to the USSR (1940–42), during which time he grew wary of the Soviet Union, but achieved great public popularity because of the entry of the USSR into the war, causing him to be seen in 1942 as a potential rival to Winston Churchill for the premiership. He became a member of the War Cabinet of the wartime coalition, but failed in his efforts (the "Cripps Mission") to resolve the wartime crisis in India, where his proposals were too radical for Churchill and the cabinet, and too conservative for Gandhi and other Indian leaders. He later served as Minister of Aircraft Production, an important post but outside the inner War Cabinet.Rejoining the Labour Party in 1945, after the war he served in the Attlee Ministry, firstly as President of the Board of Trade and between 1947-50 as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the latter position, Cripps was responsible for laying the foundations of Britain's post-war economic prosperity, and was, according to historian Kenneth O. Morgan, "the real architect of the rapidly improving economic picture and growing affluence from 1952 onwards". The economy improved after 1947, benefiting from American money given through grants from the Marshall Plan as well as loans. However it was hurt by the devaluation of the pound in 1949. He kept rationing in place to hold down consumption during an "age of austerity", promoted exports and maintained full employment with static wages. The public especially respected "his integrity, competence, and Christian principles".

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