Emyr Price: Historian of the early career of David Lloyd George

The Welsh historian and journalist Emyr Price was an authority on the early life and career of David Lloyd George. He was engaged in research into the work of the Liberal statesman, his family and party, for more than 40 years, beginning with a thesis on his pre-parliamentary career which earned him an MA in 1964. His fascination with "the little Celt from Cricieth" was rooted in his conviction that Lloyd George had a strong commitment to Home Rule for Wales, and was leader of the first modern Welsh nationalist movement, namely Cymru Fydd or "Young Wales".

Whereas most English historians have tended to view Lloyd George's early career up to 1896 as irrelevant or, at best, merely the precursor to his successes at Westminster, Price took an altogether different view. His research showed that Lloyd George was passionately concerned with winning a measure of official status for Welsh, in a country where the great majority of the people still spoke the language, and with legislating in favour of the working class, often campaigning fearlessly against entrenched opinion within his own party to bring these measures about. His decision to become a careerist politician after the failure of Young Wales in 1896 was, Price argued, the only way that Welsh aspirations – for disestablishment of the Church, for example – could be realised.

Price also examined afresh Lloyd George's perception, as a Welshman, of some of the major issues that dominated his period of power at Westminster from 1908 to 1922, including the Irish question, and the way in which Welsh values, particularly the Nonconformist ones of his youth, determined his actions.

Price also had the immense advantage over historians such as John Grigg in being able to read the Welsh sources, including the family's papers and the many Welsh-language newspapers of the last two decades of the 19th century. Price saw Lloyd George as a visionary and radical reformer, the first devolutionist of modern times.

He published extensively in his chosen field, including a study of Megan Lloyd George, the politician's daughter, in 1983. Besides many articles in the Transactions of the Caernarfonshire Historical Society (which he edited between 1981 and 1984) and the Welsh History Review, he wrote knowledgeably and attractively about the winning of universal suffrage and the welfare state, in both of which Lloyd George played a prominent role.

One of the questions which exercised him was whether, from a Welsh point of view, Lloyd George should be considered a traitor or a hero, a subject which still inflames debate in the pubs of north Wales.

His pictorial history of Lloyd George's participation in the annual proceedings of the National Eisteddfod – the statesman was its president and often entertained the audience with his oratory – appeared in 2005. His last book on the subject was in English: David Lloyd George, published by the University of Wales Press as the first volume in its Celtic Radical series in 2006.

Emyr Price was born in Bangor in 1944, the year before Lloyd George died, and brought up in Pwllheli and Porthmadog. His family was staunchly radical, supporters on the distaff side of the Liberal party and, on his father's, of the Independent Labour party. Educated at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, he took his first job as head of the history department at Ysgol Brynrefail in Llanrug, staying there until 1973 when he was appointed to a lecturer's post at the Normal College in Bangor.

He was given sabbatical leave in 1979 so that he could follow a postgraduate course in Social Administration at the London School of Economics, during which he wrote a thesis on the office of the Welsh Ombudsman.

In 1983 he was appointed editor of Y Faner ("The Flag"), the most venerable and radical of all Welsh-language newspapers, though he continued to hold classes under the auspices of the Workers' Education Association and the extramural department at Bangor. In 1984 the paper took a lead in collecting money for the Welsh Language Centre at Nant Gwrtheyrn, on the tip of the Llyn peninsula, an initiative with which he remained associated for many years, and for the striking miners of south Wales. His editorship of Y Faner, however, coincided with the nadir of the paper's fortunes: he stayed only three years and, losing readers, the weekly folded shortly after the Arts Council withdrew its subsidy.

He then found work as a producer and scriptwriter of current affairs programmes for HTV, notably Canrif y Werin ("The people's century") and – with typical evenhandedness – documentaries about such luminaries as Gwynfor Evans and Cledwyn Hughes, leaders of Plaid Cymru and the Labour party in Wales, both of whom he admired greatly.

The cause of the Welsh language, which Price spoke about fluently and elegantly, was always near his heart, and it was one of the springs of his nationalism.

He stood unsuccessfully as the Plaid Cymru candidate in the Conwy constituency at the general election of 1979 and was otherwise active for the party in north-west Wales, but found himself sympathising with the Labour party, too. A percipient critic of the nationalists from a left-wing point of view, and of Labour for its reluctance to deliver devolution, he deplored the fact that Plaid Cymru had consistently failed to make common cause with the quarrymen of north Wales and the miners and steelworkers of the south, a common front which, he believed, would have brought forward self-government for Wales by decades.

A somewhat pugnacious mien and dry manner belied a sense of humour and a warm-hearted approach to both journalism and history, both of which he managed to write with integrity and in the tradition that one is "the first draft" of the other.

He gave an entertaining and trenchant account of his own life, with many insights into the motives of some of his more ambitious friends, in Fy Hanner Canrif I ("My half-century", 2002). The title is a reference to his chief leisure activity, cricket, which he played with panache, at county level as a schoolboy and for the Bontnewydd side, one of the best in north Wales. He was also a trustee of the Lloyd George Museum, situated not far from the statesman's old home at Llanystumdwy, near Cricieth.

Of his three children, his daughter Angharad Price, who teaches in the Welsh department at Bangor University, is a distinguished prose writer and literary theorist: in 2002 she won the Prose Medal at the National Eisteddfod, a triumph which filled him with the better part of pride.

Meic Stephens

Emyr Price, historian and journalist: born Bangor, Caernarfonshire, 7 May 1944; married 1969 Mair Jones (two sons, one daughter); died Bangor, Gwynedd 22 March 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all