A Genius for Money Business, Art and the Morrisons Caroline Dakers

Publication date:
15 Nov 2011
Yale University Press
352 pages: 229 x 152mm
60 b-w + color illus.
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How the son of an innkeeper with a flair for making money became the richest commoner in nineteenth-century England, and what he did with his extraordinary success

This is the spectacular rags-to-riches story of James Morrison (1789–1857), who began life humbly but through hard work and entrepreneurial brilliance acquired a fortune unequalled in nineteenth-century England. Using the extensive Morrison archive, Caroline Dakers presents the first substantial biography of the richest commoner in England, recounting the details of Morrison's personal life while also placing him in the Victorian age of enterprise that made his success possible.

An affectionate husband and father of ten, Morrison made his first fortune in textiles, then a second in international finance. He invested in North American railways, was involved in global trade from Canton to Valparaiso, created hundreds of jobs, and relished the challenges of "the science of business". His success enabled him to acquire land, houses, and works of art on a scale to rival the grandest of aristocrats.

Caroline Dakers is professor of cultural history, Central Sain Martins, University of the Arts London. She is the author of The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society and Clouds: Biography of a Country House, both published by Yale University Press. She lives in London.

“Straightforwardly told . . . full of rich period detail.”—The Wall Street Journal

Dakers’s biography of Morrison opens up for exploration the many facets of his complicated existence—as a salesman, financier, family man, public servant . . . and thus brings to life one of the early nineteenth century’s most important figures.”—John Small, University of North Carolina, Charlotte