Jan Morris

Category: All Harkness Stories /  Humanities /  Journalism, Broadcast, Films & TV /  Up to 1959 / 

Jan Morris (CFF 1953) CBE FRSL (d.2020), like many fellows of that era was already well travelled before the fellowship, having joined the army at 17 during WW2, followed by journalism as a foreign correspondent.  A clever and inspired reporter, Jan was initially based in Cairo for the Arab news agency. There was also a role with the Times, including accompanying the first successful ascent of Mount Everest and being the first to release the news of success using encoded messages.  Later with the Guardian she gained crucial evidence about French-Israeli collusion in the Suez crisis.  After 10 years in journalism Jan decided to focus on her writing and there followed a stream of successful books; poetry, history, place and city studies (often referred to as travel books), novels, memoirs, essays and biographies, over 40 in total.  She has received multiple awards for her writing, including a Lifetime Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing award in 2018; earlier winners were Michael Palin and Bill Bryson. However in an interview with BBC in 2016 she told fellow winner 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.  Jan was published under her birth name, James, until 1972, when she undertook sex reassignment after transitioning from living as male to living as female. Her book “Conundrum” is a frank and engaging description of this part of her life. Her most recent publication “In my Mind’s Eye: A Thought Diary”, her first diary style writing, was published at the age of 90. A Welsh nationalist, she lives in North Wales with her lifelong partner and mother of her children, Elizabeth. (Jan wrote this in  2018. She passed away in 2020)