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Jan Morris (Order of the British Empire) (born James Humphrey Morris on 2 October, 1926) is a British historian and travel writer. Morris was born in Clevedon, Somerset, England, and educated at Lancing College, West Sussex, but is Welsh by heritage and adoption.
Morris is known particularly for the Pax Britannica trilogy, a history of the British Empire, and for portraits of cities, notably Oxford, Venice, Trieste and New York City, and has also written about Spanish history and culture.
Morris served in World War II in British Intelligence and later wrote for The Times. As the Times correspondent Morris scored a notable scoop in 1953 when accompanying the British expedition which was first to scale Mount Everest. Morris reported the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in a coded message to the newspaper which, by happy coincidence (or media manipulation) was released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth's coronation.
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.
Born a male, in 1949 James Humphrey Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss, the daughter of a tea planter, and he fathered five children, including the poet and musician Twm Morys. One of their children died in infancy. In 1972, Morris had a sex-change operation (sex reassignment surgery) in Morocco, then adopting the name Jan, but still maintained the marriage. Morris wrote of her quest for personal identity in her book Conundrum. The sex change surgery was done by pioneer sex reassignment surgeon Georges Burou, since doctors in Britain refused to allow the procedure unless Morris first divorced his wife, Elizabeth, something Morris was not prepared to do at the time. They afterward did divorce but remained together and have now had a civil union.
Morris lives mostly in Wales, where her parents were from.
She has received honorary doctorates from the University of Wales and the University of Glamorgan and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She received the Glyndŵr Award in 1996.
She accepted her CBE in the 1999 Queen's Birthday Honours out of polite respect, but is a Welsh nationalist republican at heart. In January 2008 The Times named her the 15th greatest British writer since the War.
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