John Morris (historian)

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John Robert Morris ( June 8, 1913 - June 1, 1977 ) was an English historian . He was mainly concerned with late antiquity and the early Middle Ages , especially the history of Great Britain during this period.

life and work

Morris studied from 1932 to 1935 modern history at Jesus College of Oxford University , among others at Goronwy Edwards . In the Second World War he was drafted into the English army and then initially received a research grant. He was employed at the Warburg Institute in London for a year until he became a lecturer in Ancient History at University College London in 1949 , a position he held until his death in 1977.

John Morris, a staunch socialist, was also politically active throughout his life. In 1935 he joined the general election as a candidate of the Labor Party on, but was not elected to Parliament. At times he was secretary to Member of Parliament George Strauss . He was a founding member of the Committee of 100 , which campaigned against nuclear power and weapons early on. He was also politically and trade union active at the local level. He was also a member of the Communist Party Historians Group , a group of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and was involved in the Institute for Workers' Control .

In 1949/1950, in the first high phase of the Cold War , Morris had the idea for a new, socio -historically oriented historical journal. His suggestion to give the journal an exclusively Marxist orientation and to call it Bulletin of Marxist Historical Studies was rejected by the colleagues he invited to collaborate and had to give way to the concept of a broader, innovative journal. Nevertheless, his ideas and concepts, especially with regard to the general comprehensibility of the essays, remained decisive. After some preparatory work, the first edition of Past & Present was published in 1952 . Morris remained its editor until 1960 and the chairman of the editorial board until 1972.

Together with Arnold Hugh Martin Jones and John Robert Martindale , Morris worked on the Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire in the 1960s and 1970s . He mainly worked on the first two volumes (published in 1971 and 1980), and one of his tasks was to inspect the Latin inscriptions. He was able to contribute his experience from working on the Prosopographia Imperii Romani .

Furthermore, Morris mainly dealt with Roman and early medieval Britain. In doing so, he endeavored, for example, to provide accessible sources: He published the Arthurian Period Sources book series and suggested a new, translated edition of the Domesday Book , the publication of which he organized. His study of the Arthurian period was particularly controversial . In it he starts from the historicity of the legendary Arthur and describes his concept of rule as the restoration of Roman rule in Britain. For this he had to take a lot of criticism from the professional world. His study on Roman London appeared posthumously, slightly edited, in 1982 . This study also contains many controversial theses, but was received more positively than the one in Arthurian times.

The estate of John Morris is located at University College London.


  • The Age of Arthur. A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650 . Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London 1973.
  • Londinium. London in the Roman Empire . Reviewed by Sarah Macready. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1982, ISBN 0-297-84145-9 .

Web links


  1. See Robert Browning , Foreword , in: John Morris, Londinium. London in the Roman Empire , London 1982, pp. Xiii – xvi, here p. Xv.
  2. See Christopher Hill, RH Hilton, Eric Hobsbawm , Past and Present. Origins and Early Years , in: Past & Present 100, 1983, pp. 3-14, here p. 3.
  3. See Hill, Hilton, Hobsbawm, Past and Present. Origins and Early Years , p. 4f.
  4. See above all Christopher Hill, John Morris , in: Past & Present 75, 1977, pp. 3-4.
  5. See for example the critical reviews by CA Ralegh Radford (in: Britannia 5, 1974, pp. 487–489) and JNL Myres (in: The English Historical Review 90, No. 354, January 1975, pp. 113–116) .
  6. Positive especially Hugh Chapman (in: Britannia 14, 1983, pp. 371-372), more critical Malcolm Todd (in: The American Historical Review 90, No. 5, December 1985, p. 1174).
  7. See overview on page Archives in London and the M25 area.