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The Welsh Gold King (Hardback)

The Life of William Pritchard Morgan

P&S History Social History 20th Century Wales 19th Century

By Norena Shopland
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 25 mono
ISBN: 9781399090605
Published: 30th August 2022

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RRP £25.00

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In 1864, a poor Welsh boy, William Pritchard Morgan, emigrated to Australia to make his fortune. He returned a wealthy lawyer and aspiring politician, having used his riches to invest in gold mines and develop new techniques of recovering gold. His political aims were unsuccessful in Australia: the newspaper Morgan used to promote himself was involved a sensational trial against another editor; and a man was even shot whilst bringing in his votes - so Morgan claimed. He returned home, ready to tackle the mining of Welsh gold.

After ousting the key players of the 1860s Little Gold Rush, Morgan soon took over Gwynfynydd, one of the area's most lucrative mines, and stood as an independent MP for Merthyr. He boasted of a fantastic seam of gold, so great he would pay off the national debt… a hero overnight, the Welsh Gold King took the title of Merthyr's MP.

Despite the massive successes of his mines, the government taxed Morgan hard and almost crippled his business, so he refused to pay. When the government tried to shut him down, the public rose to his defence, and Morgan was sued in an avidly watched trial that could change mining in Britain forever.

The Welsh Gold King bestowed gifts on many well-known people, including royalty, and promoted the tradition that all royal brides wear wedding rings of Welsh gold. He gave golden prizes – some of which caused great controversy – and his liberal politics were a forerunner of Labour views that were hard for many of his contemporaries to agree with.

An extraordinary character, Morgan was pivotal in the story of mining for gold in Wales.

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About Norena Shopland

Norena Shopland specialises in researching, recording and promoting LGBT+, women’s and Welsh histories. Working closely with heritage organisations she curates exhibitions on these subjects, hosts workshops on research techniques and is in great demand as a speaker. Shopland regularly appears in the press, on radio and TV.

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Traditionally, historic women have been seen as bound by social conventions, unable to travel unless accompanied and limited in their ability to do what they want when they want. But thousands of women broke those rules, put on banned clothing and travelled, worked and even lived whole lives as men. As access to novels and newspapers increased in the nineteenth century so did the number of women defying Biblical and social restrictions. They copied each other’s motives and excuses and moved into the world of men. Most were working-class women who either needed to or wanted to, break away from…

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