Kenneth O. Morgan

Last updated
The Right Honourable
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 by Gareth Owen
Succeeded by Derec Llwyd Morgan
Personal details
Born (1934-05-16) 16 May 1934 (age 84)
Nationality Welsh
Political party Labour
Alma mater Oriel College, Oxford
Occupation Historian

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.

Fellow of the British Academy award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences

Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. There are three kinds of fellowship

  1. Fellows, for scholars resident in the United Kingdom
  2. Corresponding Fellows, for scholars not resident in the UK
  3. Honorary Fellows, an honorary academic title
Welsh people nation and ethnic group native to Wales

The Welsh are a Celtic nation and ethnic group native to, or otherwise associated with, Wales, Welsh culture, Welsh history and the Welsh language. Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living in Wales are British citizens.

Modern history Era from ca. 1500 until present

Modern history, the modern period or the modern era, is the linear, global, historiographical approach to the time frame after post-classical history. Modern history can be further broken down into periods:



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.

University College School Camden, Greater London, NW3

University College School, generally known as UCS Hampstead, is an independent day school in Frognal, northwest London, England. The school was founded in 1830 by University College London and inherited many of that institution's progressive and secular views.

Oriel College, Oxford A college of the University of Oxford

Oriel College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Located in Oriel Square, the college has the distinction of being the oldest royal foundation in Oxford. In recognition of this royal connection, the college has also been known as King's College and King's Hall. The reigning monarch of the United Kingdom is the official Visitor of the College.

Asa Briggs English historian

Asa Briggs, Baron Briggs was an English historian. He was a leading specialist on the Victorian era, and the foremost historian of broadcasting in Britain. He was made a life peer in 1976.

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.

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

University of Wales confederal university based in Cardiff, Wales, UK

The University of Wales was a confederal university based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. Founded by Royal Charter in 1893 as a federal university with three constituent colleges – Aberystwyth, Bangor and Cardiff – the university was the first and oldest university in Wales, one of the four countries in the United Kingdom. The university was the second largest university in the UK.

Jesus College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford in England

Jesus College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is in the centre of the city, on a site between Turl Street, Ship Street, Cornmarket Street and Market Street. The college was founded by Elizabeth I on 27 June 1571 for the education of clergy, though students now study a broad range of secular subjects. A major driving force behind the establishment of the college was Hugh Price, a churchman from Brecon in Wales. The oldest buildings, in the first quadrangle, date from the 16th and early 17th centuries; a second quadrangle was added between about 1640 and about 1713, and a third quadrangle was built in about 1906. Further accommodation was built on the main site to mark the 400th anniversary of the college, in 1971, and student flats have been constructed at sites in north and east Oxford.

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.

Druid priest of Celtic religion

A druid was a member of the high-ranking professional class in ancient Celtic cultures. Perhaps best remembered as religious leaders, they were also legal authorities, adjudicators, lorekeepers, medical professionals, and political advisors. While the druids are reported to have been literate, they are believed to have been prevented by doctrine from recording their knowledge in written form, thus they left no written accounts of themselves. They are however attested in some detail by their contemporaries from other cultures, such as the Romans and the Greeks.

Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, often called simply the Cymmrodorion, is a London-based Welsh learned society, with membership open to all. It was first established in 1751 as a social, cultural, literary and philanthropic institution. It fell into abeyance between 1787 and 1820, and again between 1843 and 1873. In its second and third incarnations its interests have been predominantly cultural and antiquarian. The present society claims continuity from that founded in 1751, although the three successive societies have in fact been slightly different in character and aims.


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]

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom which has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists. The party's platform emphasises greater state intervention, social justice and strengthening workers' rights.

In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the peerage whose titles cannot be inherited, in contrast to hereditary peers. In modern times, life peerages, always created at the rank of baron, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as age and citizenship. The legitimate children of a life peer are entitled to style themselves with the prefix "The Honourable", although they cannot inherit the peerage itself.

Aberdyfi town in Wales

Aberdyfi is a village and community on the north side of the estuary of the River Dyfi in Gwynedd, on the west coast of Wales. The Community had a population of 878 as of the 2011 census. The electoral ward having a larger population of 1282.


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.

François Rabelais University French university located in Tours, France

The University of Tours, formally François Rabelais University, is a public university in Tours, France. The university was formerly named after the French writer François Rabelais, and was founded in 1969. As of July 2015 it is a member of the regional university association Leonardo da Vinci consolidated University.

University of Bordeaux university in France established in 2014

The University of Bordeaux was founded in 1441 in France. The University of Bordeaux is part of the Community of universities and higher education institutions of Aquitaine.


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]


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  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. 1 2 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