Jan Morris

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Jan Morris
BornJames Humphry Morris[1]:4
(1926-10-02) 2 October 1926 (age 93)
Clevedon, Somerset, England
GenreNon-fiction, travel writing
Elizabeth Tuckniss (m. 1949)
Children5 (1 died in infancy)

Jan Morris, CBE, FRSL (born 2 October 1926) is a Welsh historian, author and travel writer. She is known particularly for the Pax Britannica trilogy (1968–1978), a history of the British Empire, and for portraits of cities, notably Oxford, Venice, Trieste, Hong Kong, and New York City. She published under her birth name, James, until 1972, when she had gender reassignment after transitioning from male to female.


Born James Morris, in England to an English mother and Welsh father, Morris was educated at Lancing College, West Sussex, and Christ Church, Oxford. James became Jan and considers herself Welsh.[2]

In the closing stages of the Second World War, Morris served in the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers, and in 1945 was posted to the Free Territory of Trieste, during the joint British-American occupation.


After the war Morris wrote for The Times, and in 1953 was its correspondent accompanying the British Mount Everest Expedition, which was the first to scale Mount Everest. Morris reported the success of Hillary and Tenzing in a coded message to the newspaper, "Snow conditions bad stop advanced base abandoned may twenty-nine stop awaiting improvement", and by happy coincidence the news was released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth's coronation.[3] The message was initially interpreted to mean that Tom Bourdillon and Tenzing had reached the summit, but the first name was corrected before the story was broken.[4]

Reporting from Cyprus on the Suez Crisis for The Manchester Guardian in 1956, Morris produced the first "irrefutable proof" of collusion between France and Israel in the invasion of Egyptian territory, interviewing French Air Force pilots who confirmed that they had been in action in support of Israeli forces.[5] Morris reported on the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann.[6]

Morris opposed the Falklands War.[7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1949, Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss, the daughter of a tea planter; they had five children together, including the poet and musician Twm Morys. One of their children died in infancy. They still live together in rural North Wales.[8]

Morris began transitioning to life as a woman in 1964.[1]:105 In 1972, Morris travelled to Morocco to undergo sex reassignment surgery, performed by surgeon Georges Burou,[1]:135–144 because doctors in Britain refused to allow the procedure unless Morris and Tuckniss divorced, something Morris was not prepared to do at the time.[1]:127 They divorced later, but remained together and on 14 May 2008 were legally reunited when they formally entered into a civil partnership.[9]

Morris detailed her transition in Conundrum (1974), her first book under her new name, and one of the first autobiographies to discuss a personal gender reassignment.[10][note 1]


Morris has received honorary doctorates from the University of Wales and the University of Glamorgan, is an honorary fellow of Christ Church, Oxford, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She received the Glyndŵr Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales in 1996.[11]

She accepted her CBE in the 1999 Birthday Honours "out of polite respect", but is a Welsh nationalist republican at heart.[12] In 2005, she was awarded the Golden PEN Award by English PEN for "a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature".[13][14] In January 2008, The Times named her the 15th greatest British writer since the War.[9] She has featured in the Pinc List of leading Welsh LGBT figures.[15] She won the 2018 Edward Stanford Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing Award.[16]

In an interview with BBC in 2016 she told Michael Palin that she does not like to be described as a travel writer, as her books are not about movement and journeys; they are about places and people.[17]

Partial bibliography[edit]



  • Coast to Coast (published in the US as As I Saw the USA; 1956: winner of the 1957 Cafe Royal Prize)
  • Sultan in Oman (1957; new edition by Eland in 2008)
  • The Market in Seleukia (1957)
  • South African Winter (1958)
  • The Hashemite Kings (1959)
  • Venice (1960: winner of the 1961 Heinemann Award)
  • The Presence of Spain (1964)
  • Spain (1964)
  • Oxford (1965)
  • The Great Port: A Passage through New York (1969)
  • The Venetian Empire (1980)
  • A Venetian Bestiary (1982)
  • The Matter of Wales (1984)
  • Spain (1988)
  • Hong Kong (1988)
  • Sydney (1992)
  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere (2001)
  • A Writer's World: Travels 1950–2000 (2003)
  • Contact! A Book of Encounters (2010)


  • The Road to Huddersfield: A Journey to Five Continents (1963)
  • The Outriders: A Liberal View of Britain (1963)
  • Cities (1963)
  • Places (1972)
  • Travels (1976)
  • Destinations (1980)
  • Wales; The First Place (1982, reprinted 1998)
  • Journeys (1984)
  • Among the Cities (1985)
  • Locations (1992)
  • O Canada! (1992)
  • Contact! A Book of Glimpses (2009)


  • The Pax Britannica Trilogy
    • Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress (1973). Book 1. Covering the period 1837 to 1897
    • Pax Britannica: The Climax of Empire (1968). Book 2.
    • Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat (1978). Book 3. Covering the period 1897 to 1965
  • The Spectacle of Empire: Style, Effect and the Pax Britannica (1982)
  • Stones of Empire: Buildings of the Raj (1983) (by Jan Morris with photographs by Simon Winchester)
  • Battleship Yamato: Of War, Beauty and Irony (2018)


  • Fisher's Face (1995)


  • Conundrum, UK Faber and Faber, US: Harcourt Brace (1974) (personal narrative of transsexualism)
  • Wales, The First Place (1982)
  • Pleasures of a Tangled Life (1989)
  • "Herstory" (1999)
  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere (2001)
  • A Writer's House in Wales (2002)
  • In My Mind's Eye: A Thought Diary (2018)
  • Thinking Again (2020)


  • Coronation Everest (1958)
  • Ciao, Carpaccio! (2014)



Short stories[edit]

  • The Upstairs Donkey, and Other Stolen Stories (1961)


  • The World Bank. A Prospect (1963)
  • Manhattan '45 (hardcover 1987, paperback 1998)
  • Over Europe (Weldon Owen, 1991) – Jan Morris provided the text for this post-Cold War photographic project
  • Fifty Years of Europe: An Album (1997) – published in 2006 as Europe – An Intimate Journey
  • The Oxford Book of Oxford (editor)
  • The Matter of Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country
  • Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest (2001)
  • Our First Leader
  • Thrilling Cities written by Ian Fleming. Jan Morris provided the introduction for the 2009 edition published by Ian Fleming Publications.


  1. ^ The opening lines of Conundrum: "I was three or perhaps four years old when I realized that I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl. I remember the moment well, and it is the earliest memory of my life."
  1. ^ a b c d Morris, Jan (2006). Conundrum. New York Review of Books. ISBN 978-1-59017-189-9.
  2. ^ Johns, Derek (27 March 2016). "Jan Morris at 90: She has shown us the world". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  3. ^ Venables, Stephen (2003). To the top: the story of Everest. London: Walker Books. p. 63. ISBN 0-7445-8662-3.
  4. ^ "The Press battle to report Everest climb". BBC News. 29 May 2013.
  5. ^ Rusbridger, Alan (10 July 2006). "Courage Under Fire". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  6. ^ A Writer's World: Travels 1950–2000. 2003.
  7. ^ "Authors Take Sides on the Falklands (Review)", W. L. Webb, The Guardian Weekly, 29 August, (p.21).
  8. ^ Tim Adams (1 March 2020). "Jan Morris: 'You're talking to someone at the very end of things'". The Guardian.
  9. ^ a b McSmith, Andy (4 June 2008). "Love story: Jan Morris – Divorce, the death of a child and a sex change... but still together". The Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  10. ^ Shopland, Norena 'A tangle in my life' from Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales, Seren Books, 2017
  11. ^ "BBC Wales Arts: Jan Morris". www.bbc.co.uk.
  12. ^ Frost, Caroline. "Jan Morris:A Profile". BBC Four website.
  13. ^ "Golden Pen Award, official website". English PEN. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  14. ^ Gillian Fenwick (2008). "Chronology". Traveling Genius: The Writing Life of Jan Morris. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. XX. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  15. ^ "Pinc List 2017". Wales Online. 19 August 2017.
  16. ^ "Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2018 winners". Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. 1 February 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Artsnight: Michael Palin Meets Jan Morris". BBC two. BBC. 8 October 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]