Charles Manning Hope Clark AC (3 March 1915 – 23 May 1991), Australian historian, was the author of the best-known general history of Australia, his six-volume History of Australia, published between 1962 and 1987. He has been described as "Australia's most famous historian," but his work has been the target of much criticism, particularly from conservatives.
Clark was born in Sydney in 1915, the son of Rev Charles Clark, an English-born Anglican priest from a working-class background (he was the son of a London carpenter), and Catherine Hope, who came from an old Australian establishment family. On his mother's side he was a descendant of Rev Samuel Marsden, the "flogging parson" of early colonial New South Wales. He had a difficult relationship with his mother, who never forgot her superior social origins, and came to identify her with the Protestant middle class he so vigorously attacked in his later work. His family moved to Melbourne when he was a child; and lived in what one biographer describes as "genteel poverty" on the modest income of an Anglican vicar.
Clark's happiest memories of his youth were of the years 1922-24, when his father was the vicar of Phillip Island, south-east of Melbourne, where he acquired the love of fishing and of cricket, which he retained for the rest of his life. He was educated at state schools at Cowes and Belgrave, and then at Melbourne Grammar School, one of Australia's most exclusive schools. Here, as an introspective boy from a modest background, he suffered from ridicule and bullying, and acquired a life-long dislike for the sons of the Melbourne upper class who had tormented him and others at this school. His later school years, however, were happier. He discovered a love of literature and the classics, and became an outstanding student of Greek, Latin and history (British and European). In 1933 he was equal dux of the school.
As a result, Clark won a scholarship to Trinity College at Melbourne University. Here he thrived, gaining firsts in Ancient History and British History, and captaining the college cricket team. In his second year he gained firsts in Constitutional and Legal History and in Modern Political Institutions. One of his teachers, W. Macmahon Ball, Australia's leading political scientist in this period, made a deep impression on him. By this time he had lost his Christian faith, but was not attracted to any of the secular alternatives on offer. His writings as a student explicitly rejected both socialism and communism. His favourite writers at this time were Fyodor Dostoevsky and T.S. Eliot, and his favourite historian was the conservative Thomas Carlyle.
In 1937 Clark won a scholarship to Balliol College at Oxford University, and left Australia in August 1938. Among his teachers at Oxford were Hugh Trevor-Roper (a conservative), Christopher Hill (at that time a Communist) and A.J.P. Taylor (a moderate socialist). He won acceptance by excelling at cricket - playing for the Oxford XI and competing alongside Ted Heath and Roy Jenkins. He began a master of arts thesis on Alexis de Tocqueville. At Oxford in the late 1930s he shared the left's horror of fascism - seen firsthand during a visit to Nazi Germany in 1938 - and contempt for appeasement, but was not attracted to the communism which was prevalent among undergraduates at the time. Indeed his exposure to Nazism in 1938 made him more pessimistic and sceptical about the state of European civilisation, and less susceptible to the grand utopian schemes of the communists. At Oxford also he suffered the social snubs commonly experienced by "colonials" at that time, which was apparently the source of his life-long dislike of the English. In 1939 in Oxford he married Dymphna Lodewyckx, the daughter of a Flemish intellectual and a formidable scholar in her own right, with whom he had six children.
When World War II broke out in September 1939, Clark was exempted from military service on the grounds of his mild epilepsy. He supported himself while finishing his thesis by teaching history and coaching cricket teams at minor public school at Tiverton in Devonshire. Here he discovered a gift for teaching. In June 1940 he suddenly decided to return to Australia, abandoning his unfinished thesis, but was unable to get a teaching position at an Australian university due to the wartime decline in enrolments. Instead he taught history at Geelong Grammar School, and also coached the school's First XI - a highly prestigious appointment. Among those he taught were Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Murray-Smith and Geoffrey Fairbairn. While at Geelong he began systematically to read Australian history, literature and criticism for the first time. The result was his first publication on an Australian theme, an open letter to the 19th century Australian writer "Tom Collins," on the subject of mateship, which appeared in the literary magazine Meanjin.
In 1944 Clark returned to Melbourne University to finish his master's thesis, an essential requirement if he was to gain a university post. He supported himself by tutoring politics, and later in the year he was finally appointed to a lectureship in politics. The acting head of the Politics Department at this time was Ian Milner, who soon left to become an Australian diplomat. Years later it was revealed that Milner had been a secret communist and Soviet agent. Clark's brief friendship with Milner at this time has been seized on as evidence of Clark's supposed communist sympathies, but it is unlikely that Clark knew anything about Milner's covert activities. In late 1945 he transferred to the History Department, as a permanent lecturer in Australian History. With the encouragement of Professor Max Crawford (head of the History Department from 1937 to 1970), he taught the university's first full-year course in Australian history. Among his students were Frank Crean (later Deputy Prime Minister) Geoffrey Blainey, Geoffrey Serle, Ken Inglis and Ian Turner (all future historians of note), and Peter Ryan, later Clark's publisher. During this time he began thoroughly researching the archives in Melbourne and Sydney for the documentary evidence on Australia's early history. He also developed a reputation as a heavy drinker, and was a well-known figure in the pubs of nearby Carlton. (In the 1960s he gave up drink and was a total abstainer for the rest of his life.)
In 1948 Clark was promoted to Senior Lecturer, and was well set for a life-long career at Melbourne University. But as the Cold War set in he began to find the intellectual climate of Melbourne uncomfortable. In 1947 F.L. Edmunds, a Liberal member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, launched an attack on "Communist infiltration" of the University, naming Crawford (a largely apolitical liberal) and Jim Cairns, an economics lecturer and a left-wing Labor Party member. Clark was not named, but when he went on the radio to defend his colleagues, he was attacked as well. Thirty of Clark's students signed a letter affirming that he was a "learned and sincere teacher" of "irreproachable loyalty." The Melbourne University branch of the Communist Party said that Clark was "a reactionary" and no friend of theirs.
In July 1949, therefore Clark moved to Canberra to take up the post of Professor History at the Canberra University College (CUC), which was at that time a branch of Melbourne University, and which in 1960 became the School of General Studies of the Australian National University (ANU). He lived in Canberra, then still a "bush capital" in an idyllic (if somewhat dusty) rural setting, for the rest of his life. From 1949 to 1972 Clark was Professor of History, first at CUC and then at ANU. In 1972 he was appointed to the new post of Professor of Australian History, which he held until his retirement in 1974. He then held the title Emeritus Professor until his death.
During the 1950s Clark pursued a conventional academic career while teaching history in Canberra. In 1950 he published the first of two volumes of Select Documents in Australian History (Volume one, 1788-1850: volume two, 1851-1900, appeared in 1955). These volumes made an important contribution to the teaching of Australian history in schools and universities by placing a wide selection of primary sources, many never before published, in the hands of students. The documents were accompanied by extensive annotation and commentaries by Clark, and his critics now regard this as his best work, before the onset of what they see as his later decline. At this stage of his career Clark published as C.M.H. Clark, but he was always known as Manning Clark, and published his later works under that name.
During this period Clark was regarded as a conservative, both politically and in his approach to Australian history. In an influential 1954 lecture published under the title "Rewriting Australian history", he rejected the nostalgic radical nationalism of "Old Left" historians such as Brian Fitzpatrick, Russel Ward, Vance Palmer and Robin Gollan, which, he said, tended to see Australian history as merely a "manure heap" from which the coming golden age of socialism would arise. He attacked many of the shibboleths of the nationalist school, such as the idealisation of the convicts, bushrangers and pioneers. The rewriting of Australian history, he said, "will not come from the radicals of this generation because they are tethered to an erstwhile great but now excessively rigid creed." There were a number of similar comments in his annotation of the Select Documents. The diggers of Eureka, for example, were not revolutionaries, but aspiring capitalists; the dominant creed of the 1890s was not socialism, but fear of Asian immigration. Although these views were seen as conservative at the time, they were later taken up with greater force by the Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen in his 1970 book A New Britannia.
The orthodox left was sharply critical of Clark during this period. When Paul Mortier reviewed the second volume of Select Documents in the Communist Party newspaper Tribune, he criticised Clark for his lack of marxist understanding: "Professor Clark rejects class struggle as the key to historical development: he expressed grave doubts about whether there has been any real progress: and he has no good word for historians who pay tribute to the working people for their contributions to Australia's traditions," he wrote.
In 1962 Clark contributed an essay to Peter Coleman's book Australian Civilisation, in which he argued that much of Australian history could be seen as a three-sided struggle between Catholicism, Protestantism and secularism, a theme which he continued to develop in his later work. In his introduction Coleman wrote:
- "The post-war Counter-Revolution [in Australian historiography] involves so many influences that it would be ridiculous to attribute it to the influence of any one man, but nevertheless the influence of Manning Clark has been of the greatest importance. By his questioning of the orthodox assumptions he did more than anyone else to release historians from the prison of the radical interpretation and to begin the systematic study of the neglected themes in our history, especially of religion."
At this time also Clark was close to James McAuley, founder of the conservative literary-political magazine Quadrant. McAuley persuaded him to become a member of Quadrant 's initial editorial advisory board.. Clark was, however, never fully identified with political conservatism. In 1954 he was one of a group of intellectuals who publicly criticised the position of the Menzies government on the war in French Indo-China, and as a result was attacked as communist fellow-travellers in the House of Representatives by the backbench red-baiter Bill Wentworth. As a result he was placed under surveillance by Australia's domestic intelligence organisation, ASIO, who over the years compiled a large file of trivia and gossip about him, without ever discovering anything in his activities which posed a risk to "national security."
The History of Australia
In the mid 1950s Clark conceived a new project: a large multi-volume history of Australia, based on the documentary sources but giving expression to Clark's own ideas about the meaning of Australian history. As a preparation he took leave from Canberra in 1956 and visited Jakarta, Burma and various cities in India, fossicking in museums and archives for documents and maps relating to the discovery of Australia by the Dutch in the 17th century, and also the possible discovery of Australia by the Chinese or the Portuguese. He then visited London, Oxford and the Netherlands, where he combed through the archives for more documents relating to the Dutch explorers and the founding of New South Wales in 1788 - Dymphna Clark did most of the research work in the Dutch archives. An immediate result of research this was Sources of Australian History (Oxford University Press 1957). On his return to Australia, Clark began to write The History of Australia. The History was originally envisioned as a two-volume work, with the first volume extending to the 1860s and the second volume ending in 1939. As Clark began to write, however, the work expanded dramatically, both in size and conception.
The first volume of the History ("from the earliest times to the Age of Macquarie") appeared in 1962, and five more volumes, taking the story down to 1935, appeared over the next 26 years. In his autobiographical memoir A Historian's Apprenticeship (published after his death), Clark recalled that his models were Carlyle, Edward Gibbon and T.B. Macaulay - two conservatives and a Whig - and that he was inspired by the belief that "the story of Australia was a bible of wisdom both for those now living and, I hoped, for those to come after us." By this time he had rejected all the notions of progressive (including Marxist) historiography: "I was beginning to see Australian history and indeed all history as a tragedy. Failure was the fate of the individual: success could be the fate of society. If that was a contradiction, I could only reply that it was but one of the many contradictions we must accept as soon as we can as part of the human condition."
The dominant theme of the early volumes of Clark's history was the interplay between the harsh environment of the Australian continent and the European values of the people who discovered, explored and settled it in the 18th and 19th centuries. (In common with most Australians of his generation, he had little knowledge of, or interest in, the indigenous Australians, though this changed in his later life). He saw Catholicism, Protestantism and the Enlightenment as the three great contending influences in Australian history. He was chiefly interested in colourful, emblematic individuals and the struggles they underwent to maintain their beliefs in Australia - men like William Bligh, William Wentworth, John MacArthur and Daniel Deniehy. His view was that most of his heroes had a "tragic flaw" which made their struggles ultimately futile.
Clark largely ignored the 20th century historiographic preoccupation with economic and social history, and completely rejected the Marxist stress on class and class struggle as the driving force of social progress. He was also not much interested in detailed factual history, and as the History progressed it became less and less based in empirical research and more and more a work of literature: an epic rather than a history. His inattention to factual detail became notorious, and was noted even in the first volume, which drew a critical review from Malcolm Ellis titled "History without facts." Ellis (who had a history of personal hostility with Clark) was the first of many critics to take Clark to task for too much speculation about what was in the hearts of men and too little description of what they actually did. The historian A.G.L. Shaw (who had been best man at Clark's wedding) said that while most of Clark's errors were trivial, together they created "a sense of mistrust in the work as a whole." There was also criticism that Clark relied too heavily on his own interpretation of primary sources and ignored the secondary literature. On the other hand many historians, including Max Crawford, Bede Nairn, Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Alan Martin (later the official biographer of Robert Menzies), praised the book.
The History thus met a mixed critical response - "praise, misgivings and puzzlement in varying proportions" - but a generally positive public one. Most readers warmed to Clark's great gift for narrative prose and the depiction of individual character, and were not troubled by the comments of academic critics on his factual inaccuracies or their doubts about his historiographic theories. The books sold extremely well and were a major earner for Melbourne University Press (MUP) and its director, Peter Ryan. Even critics who found fault with the History as history admired it as literature (although later critics felt that the literary quality of subsequent volumes declined). In The Age, Stuart Sayers hailed it as "a major work, not only of scholarship... but also of Australian literature." Some reviewers complained that Clark was "too pre-occupied with tragic vision" or condemned his "Biblical and slightly mannered style" (which grew more mannered in each successive volume), but "recognised that Clark's very excesses gave the History its profundity and distinctive insight." The respected historian John La Nauze, author of a highly-regarded biography of Alfred Deakin, wrote that the importance of Clark's work "lies not in the apocalyptic vision of our history... which I do not understand, and which I am sure I would disagree with if I did," but in "the particular flashes of interpretation" which gave "a new appearance to familiar features."
Meeting Soviet Man
In 1958 Clark visited the Soviet Union for three weeks as a guest of the Soviet Writers' Union, accompanied by the Communist writer Judah Waten and the Queensland poet James Devaney, a Catholic of moderate views. The delegation visited Moscow and Leningrad, and Clark also visited Prague on his way home. While Waten wanted him to admire the achievements of the Soviet state, Clark was more interested in attending the Bolshoi Ballet, the Dostoevsky Museum and the St Sergius Monastery at Zagorsk. Clark annoyed both Waten and his Soviet hosts by asking questions about Boris Pasternak, the dissident Soviet writer who was in trouble for having his novel Doctor Zhivago published in the West. Nevertheless, he was impressed by the material progress of the country after the devastation of World War II and by the limited political liberalisation which was taking place under Nikita Khrushchev.
On his return he wrote a series of articles for the liberal news-magazine Nation, which were later published in booklet form as Meeting Soviet Man (Angus and Robertson 1960). This work later became "exhibit A" for the charge that Clark was a communist, a communist sympathiser or, at best, hopelessly naive about communism. In it he gave ammunition to his enemies by denying that millions of people had died during Stalin's collectivisation of agriculture. On the other hand he was scathing about the cultural dreariness of the Soviet Union and about the greed and philistinism of the Soviet bureaucracy. Although he criticised Soviet society for the "greyness" of everyday life and the suppression of religion, he praised the Soviet state's ability to provide for the material needs of the people. His comment that Lenin stood on a par with Jesus as one of the great men of all time was later often quoted against him.
At the time, however, the book was not universally seen as pro-Soviet. Writing in Tribune, Waten denounced it as misleading and "littered with half-truths and anti-Soviet clichés." Clark's son recalls:
- "The irony is that it was during the time of publication that my father's relationship with Judah was most strained, and the point of conflict was over the content of the book. Judah attacked Meeting Soviet Man for being too sympathetic to the west, and too critical of the Soviet Union. I recall one particularly tense meeting at Judah's house. To lighten up the atmosphere he spent the first hour regaling us with colourful stories about the professional boxing bouts he attended in Melbourne's old Festival Hall. Then he and my father retired to another room to talk the issue out. I could tell from the grim expressions as they emerged that there had been no resolution of their differences."
Nevertheless, Meeting Soviet Man marked the beginning of Clark's reputation as a left-winger, something of which his work to that point had given no indication. James McAuley, hitherto a close friend, called the book "shoddy," and Donald Horne, then a conservative and editor of The Bulletin, called it "superficial" and showing "too much sentimental goodwill" towards the Soviet Union.
It remains unclear what Clark's political views actually were, although it is clear that from the mid 1960s onwards he identified the Australian Labor Party as the party of progress and Australian independence, and particularly admired Gough Whitlam (Labor leader of the from 1967 and Prime Minister 1972-75) as the leader Australia had been looking for ever since the death of John Curtin in 1945. Stephen Holt wrote in his study A Short History of Manning Clark: "Though never belonging to a party, he was intensely political, embodying the conflicting loyalties of inter-war Australia... He disturbed conservative and conventional opinion without himself becoming an unswerving left-wing believer." Peter Craven disagreed: "I'm not sure that he [Holt] is right that Clark was an intensely political figure. He seems in some respects to have been more of a political agnostic whose personal mythology became conflated with the dreary mechanisms of celebrity in this country so that both sides were ready to plague him."
Whatever his real views, Clark enjoyed praise and celebrity, and since he was now getting it mainly from the left he tended to play to the gallery in his public statements. "He was more popular and newsworthy, 'the best guru in the business,' as Geoff Serle put it in 1974." There is, however, no evidence that Clark had any real sympathy with Communism as an ideology or as a system of government. He visited the Soviet Union again in 1970 and in 1973, and he again expressed his admiration for Lenin as a historical figure. But in 1971 he took part in a demonstration outside the Soviet Embassy in Canberra against the Soviet persecution of the author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and in 1985 he again took part in an anti-Soviet demonstration, this time in support of the Polish trade union Solidarity. In 1978 he told an interviewer that he was not an advocate of revolution. He was torn, he said, between "radicalism and pessimism," a pessimism based on doubts that socialism would really make things any better.
The History of Australia: later volumes
Volumes II and III of the History broadly followed the path prepared by Clark's earlier work and ideas. Volume II (launched in 1968) took the story to the 1830s, and dwelt on the conflicts between the colonial governors and their landowning allies with the emerging first generation of native-born white Australians, many of them the children of convicts. It prompted Russel Ward to praise Clark as "the greatest historian, living or dead, of Australia." Even Leonie Kramer, doyenne of conservative intellectuals and closely associated with the Quadrant group, named Volume II as her "book of the year." The appearance of Volume III in 1973 aroused little controversy - commentators of all political views apparently felt there was nothing new to say about Clark's work.
By the time Volume IV appeared in 1979, however, the tone of both his work and of the critical response to it had changed greatly. (This process was aided by Clark's retirement from teaching in 1975 - he no longer faced the demands of a professional academic career and was free to write what he liked.) Although Clark had rejected the nostalgic nationalism of the "Old Left" historians, he shared much of their contempt for the old Anglo-Australian upper class, whose stronghold was the "Melbourne establishment" where Clark was raised and educated. His earlier preoccupation with the clash of European belief systems imported into Australia in the 18th century faded, and was replaced by a focus on what Clark saw as the conflict between "those who stood for 'King and Empire' and those who stood for 'the Australian way of life and the Australian dream,' between the 'the Old Dead Tree and the Young Tree Green'." While this was a focus more relevant to the history of Australia in the late 19th and 20th centuries, it was also a much more politically contentious one, and Clark's undisguised contempt for the "Old Dead Tree" of the Anglo-Australian middle class fuelled the view that he was now writing polemic rather than history.
Writing in the heated political atmosphere of Australia in the 1970s, Clark came to see Robert Menzies (Liberal Prime Minister 1949-66) as the representative of the "old" Australia, and to see Whitlam as the hero of a new progressive Australia. Clark campaigned for Whitlam in the 1972 and 1974 elections, and was outraged by his dismissal by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, in 1975, after which he wrote an article for Menajin called "Are we a nation of bastards?" These views increasingly coloured his writing, and were notable in the last three volumes of the History. Volume IV of the History, launched in 1978, was notably strident in its attacks on Anglo-Australian conservatism, materialism, philistinism and "groveldom." It attracted the now familiar range of critical comment: criticism from conservatives, praise from the left (although Marxists like Connell and McQueen continued to complain that Clark was really a "bourgeois historian").
In 1975 the Australian Broadcasting Commission invited Clark to give the 1976 Boyer Lectures, a series of lectures which were broadcast and later published as A Discovery of Australia. Clark's next work, In Search of Henry Lawson (1979), was a reworking of an essay which was originally written in 1964 as a chapter for Geoffrey Dutton's pioneering The Literature of Australia. It was worked up in some haste in response to the desire of the Macmillan publishing house for a new book with which they could cash in on Clark's popularity. Predictably, and with more than usual justification, Clark saw Lawson as another of his tragic heroes, and he wrote with a good deal of empathy of Lawson's losing battle with alcoholism: a fate Clark himself had narrowly avoided by giving up drink in the 1960s. But the book showed both its age and its haste of preparation, and was savaged by Professor Colin Roderick, the leading authority on Lawson, as "a tangled thicket of factual errors, speculation and ideological interpretation."
By the time Volume V of the History, which covered the years between 1881 and 1915, appeared in 1981, Clark had increasingly withdrawn from political controversy. The retirement of Whitlam after his defeats at the 1975 and 1977 elections removed the main focus of Clark's political loyalty - he was not very impressed with Whitlam's pragmatic successor, Bill Hayden, and even less impressed with Hayden's chief rival, Bob Hawke, whom Clark had known since his student days at ANU and regarded as lacking in principle. In addition, Clark, although only in his mid 60s, was in poor health, already suffering from the heart problems that were overshadow his final years. In any case, Clark made it clear in this volume that his enthusiasm for Whitlam had not changed his views of the Labor Party as a party: Labor's founding leaders, Chris Watson and Andrew Fisher, he wrote, were dull and unimaginative men, who wanted no more than that working men should have a modest share of the prosperity of bourgeois Australia. The real hero of Volume V was Alfred Deakin, leader of enlightened middle-class liberalism, and (like Clark) a product of Melbourne Grammar and Melbourne University.
In 1983 Clark was hospitalised for the first time and underwent bypass surgery, and further surgery was needed in 1984. Always a pessimist, Clark became convinced that his time was running out, and from this point he lost interest in the outside world and its concerns and concentrated solely on finishing the History before his death. His work on Volume VI, to cover the years between the two world wars, led him to compare Hawke, who became Prime Minister in March 1983, with James Scullin, the hapless Labor Prime Minister of the Depression years who failed to take any radical steps and saw his government destroyed. Clark's health improved in 1985 and he was able to travel to China and to the Australian war cemeteries in France. A final burst of energy enabled him to finish Volume VI in 1986, although the story was taken only down to 1935, when both John Curtin and Robert Menzies emerged as national leaders, allowing Clark to draw a sharp contrast between these two, portraying Menzies as the representative of the old Anglo-Australian "grovellers" and Curtin as the leader of the new Australian nationalism. The book was launched in July 1987.
Attacks on his work
By the 1970s Clark, while still writing history which was conservative in a historiographical sense (that is, not based on any economic or class theory of history), had come to be seen as a "left-wing" historian, and eventually he accepted this label, despite his fundamental scepticism and pessimism. This meant that left-wing intellectuals and commentators generally praised his work, while right-wingers increasingly condemned it, in both cases often without much regard to the merit of the work.
Clark's defection to the left in the 1970s caused fury on the literary and intellectual right, particularly since he was accompanied by several other leading figures including Donald Horne and the novelist Patrick White, whose career has some parallels with Clark's. He was denounced in Quadrant and in the columns of the Murdoch press as the godfather of the "Black armband view of history" (the view allegedly held on the left that Australia should be ashamed of its past history of racism, sexism etc). He was unfavourably compared with Geoffrey Blainey, Australia's leading "orthodox" historian (who coined the "black armband" phrase, and who became a hero of the right when he made a speech in 1984 critical of the level of Asian immigration to Australia). Clark reacted to these attacks in typically contrary style by becoming more outspoken, thus provoking further attacks. These exchanges were made more bitter by the fact that most of the participants had been friends for many years.
The attacks on Clark were not entirely politically motivated. Clark's professional reputation as a historian declined during the later period of his life, and the final two volumes of the History were given scant attention by other serious historians, regardless of their political views. This was not because they were seen as too "left-wing," but because they were seen as verbose, repetitive and with few new insights to offer. Clark's publisher at MUP, Peter Ryan, maintains that leading historians acknowledged to him in private that the later volumes of the History were inferior work, but would not say so publicly out of respect for Clark, or out of a reluctance to give ammunition to the political attacks on him. "By the time Volume V was published in 1981, this approached the proportions of a professional scandal. Quadrant, for example, asked five of Australia's leading historians to review it, and received five more of less identical replies: 'It's a terrible book, but you can't expect me to say that in print." 
Clark's tendency to focus on individuals and their tragic flaws, while a serviceable approach when writing about the early days of colonial New South Wales, a small and isolated society dominated by such colourful characters as MacArthur and Wentworth, had much less validity when he was writing about the more complex Australia of the later 19th and 20th centuries. His lack of interest in economic and social history became less forgiveable, particularly among the younger generation of historians, regardless of their politics. The Marxist Bob Connell wrote that Clark had no understanding of the historical process, assuming that things happened by chance or "by an odd irony." Bill Cope, writing in Labour History, the house-journal of left-wing historians, wrote that Clark had been "left behind, both by the new social movements of the postwar decades and the new histories which have transformed the way we see our past and ourselves." John Hirst, usually regarded as a moderately conservative historian, wrote: "In the end Clark became the sort of historian he had set out to supersede - a barracker for the 'progressive' side who accepted uncritically its view of the world."
By the time Clark died in May 1991, he had become something of a national institution, as much for his public persona as for his historical work. His goatee beard, his bush hat, his stout walking stick, his enigmatic public utterances, had become widely known even among people who had never opened any of his books. It was this which inspired the 1988 project of turning the History into a musical, Manning Clark's History of Australia: the Musical, funded by the Australian Bicentenary and with a script by Don Watson, historian and later speechwriter to Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating. The show was a flop, but did not detract from Clark's public standing, particularly among Labor voters. His last works were two volumes of autobiography, The Puzzles of Childhood (Viking 1989) and The Quest for Grace (Viking 1990). A third, unfinished volume, A Historian's Apprenticeship (Melbourne University Press 1992), was published after his death.
According to Robert Manne, editor of Quadrant from 1990 to 1997, Peter Ryan, who retired from MUP in 1988, was already preparing to publish an article attacking Clark and his work before the latter's death, but when Clark died he postponed the project for a decent interval. The article finally appeared in Quadrant in September 1993. Ryan had known Clark since 1947, when he had been his student at Melbourne University. He later became a close friend and drinking partner. When Ryan became Director of MUP in 1962, he inherited Clark's History, the first volume of which was already at the press. As Director, he edited and published Volumes II to VI, and had a long, stormy but still generally friendly relationship with Clark until the completion of the History in 1986. As he acknowledged, the History had been very beneficial both to MUP commercially and to his own professional career.
But in his 1993 article Ryan declared that Clark was a fraud and his work valueless. Even while publishing the later volumes, he wrote, he knew that "scholarly rigour and historical strictness were slowly seeping out of both man and History, and that a sententious showiness in both of them, as it grew, was making the whole undertaking unworthy of the imprint of a scholarly publishing house." In retrospect, he said, he was ashamed to have published Clark's work, and that he ought to have resigned from MUP rather than continuing to do so. He did not do so, he said, because of his responsibilities to MUP's other authors, and because he hesitated to set his own condemnation of the History against its obvious appeal to the book-buying public and against the evident approval of Clark's work by other historians.
The first part of Ryan's article went over their friendship since 1947, and examined the roots of what he saw as the decline of Clark's personal and professional integrity in his later life. These included, in Ryan's view, his reflexive Anglophobia, his theatricality, pomposity and vanity, and his hypocrisy in attacking the Anglo-Australian middle-class and their "bourgeois" culture when he himself was a product of the former and deeply imbued with the latter. Then Ryan proceeded to attack the History as "an imposition on Australian credulity - more plainly, a fraud."
"There is no strong narrative thread to guide a reader firmly through the broad plot from 1788 to 1935 [Ryan wrote], even though Australia's history is short, and not unduly complicated... No statistics are helpfully organised to display trends in growth or decline, or changes focuses of national interest... When they buy a six-volume national history, most people expect something of a work of reference. They will not find Manning Clark serviceable for this purpose."
This philippic was not surprisingly attacked by a range of critics, notably historians such as Russel Ward, Don Watson, Humphrey MacQueen, Stuart Macintyre and Paul Bourke and the critic Robert Hughes. Ryan was denounced as an ingrate and a coward for attacking Clark after his death and after having benefiting materially and professionally from Clark's work. It was notable, however, that Ryan's critics mainly directed their fire at the propriety of Ryan's posthumous attack on Clark, and on a defence of Clark's personal and professional integrity, rather than on a defence of the History as an important piece of Australian history-writing. The polemic raged along predictable left-right lines: conservatives felt obliged to support Ryan and denigrate Clark, while leftists felt obliged to defend Clark, if not his historical method.
In August 1999 the attack on Clark's reputation reached a new level with the allegation in the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper, Brisbane's Courier-Mail, that he had been a "Soviet agent of influence" and had been awarded the Order of Lenin by the Soviet Union in recognition of his services. This allegation has been maintained by the Courier-Mail editor-in-chief at the time, Chris Mitchell, in his current position as editor of The Australian. In fact Clark, along with many others, had been given a mass-produced bronze medallion when he had visited Moscow in 1970, to speak at a conference organised to mark the centenary of Lenin's birth. An investigation by the Australian Press Council found the Order of Lenin allegations to be false. The Press Council ruling said: "The newspaper had too little evidence to assert that Prof Clark was awarded the Order of Lenin - rather there is much evidence to the contrary. That being so, the Press Council finds that the Courier-Mail was not justified in publishing its key assertion and the conclusions which so strongly flowed from it. The newspaper should have taken further steps to check the accuracy of its reports. While the Courier-Mail devoted much space to people challenging its assertions, the Press Council believes it should have retracted the allegations about which Prof Clark's supporters complained."
This allegation, the originator of which was Les Murray, a poet of strongly conservative views who is closely associated with Quadrant, was too much even for most of Clark's detractors. Robert Manne (who had been sacked as Quadrant editor in 1997) said: "It was clear that a couple of people saw him wearing a Soviet medal but there are many Soviet medals and I never thought that it was an Order of Lenin. But the Courier-Mail went from the assumption that it was an Order of Lenin to the assumption that he was one of the spies of the century. This was one of the most absurd pieces of journalism that Australia has ever seen."
Michael Thwaites, a former Australian intelligence officer, said: "I can say without hesitation that I am not aware of any evidence that Manning was in any sense or form an agent of the Soviet Union. I differed with him in many ways: he sometimes expressed views that I thought were misleading. His book has been mentioned, Meeting Soviet Man, after his visit to Russia, and I remember thinking when that came out that that was a very one-sided picture: but that's a world away from saying that he was in any way working consciously for the Soviet Union." 
Further criticism of Clark's reliability arose in March 2007 with the discovery that Clark's account, given in his memoirs and elsewhere, of walking the streets of Bonn the day after Kristallnacht was in fact a fabrication. By examining Clark's letters and diary, the writer Mark McKenna, who is writing a biography of Clark, established that it was Clark's future wife Dymphna, and not Clark, who was present on that day, although Clark did arrive in Bonn a fortnight later.
"Like many others," McKenna said, "I had taken Clark at his word. I had even quoted the Kristallnacht story in my published work. I reread Dymphna's letter carefully, checked Clark's diary entries, and saw that it was impossible for Clark to have been in Bonn on the morning of 10 November. As his own diary confirms, he did not arrive in Bonn until 26 November."
Clark was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1975. He won the Moomba Book Award and the Henry Lawson Arts Award in 1969, the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medal in 1970, The Age Book Prize in 1974 and the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award in 1979. He was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Melbourne, Newcastle University and Sydney University. In 1980 he was named Australian of the Year.
After Dymphna Clark's death in 2000, the Clark's home in Tasmania Circle, Forrest, was turned into Manning Clark House, an educational centre devoted to Manning Clark's life and work. Manning Clark House "provides opportunities for the whole community to debate and discuss contemporary issues and ideas, through a program of conferences, seminars, forums, publishing, and arts and cultural events." In 1999 Manning Clark House inaugurated an annual Manning Clark Lecture, which is given each year by a distinguished Australian.
Two biographies of Clark, one by McKenna and one by Brian Matthews, are in preparation. In the interim two less ambitious books have appeared: Stephen Holt's study A Short History of Manning Clark and Carl Bridge's collection of essays, Manning Clark: His Place in History. Manning Clark House is also planning to publish an edition of Clark's letters.
- Graeme Davidson and others, The Oxford Companion to Australian History, Oxford University Press 1998, 128
- The basic facts of Clark's life and career are given in Stephen Holt, A Short History of Manning Clark, Allen and Unwin 1999, and in Bridge's introduction to Manning Clark, 2-9
- Miriam Dickson, "Clark and national identity," in Carl Bridge (editor), Manning Clark: Essays on his Place in History, Melbourne University Press 1994, 195
- The move was the result of Charles Clark's hasty departure from his parish in Kempsey, where he had been having an affair with the family's maid, by whom he had a daughter. This scandal, unspoken but always present, haunted Clark's childhood. Holt, A Short History, 6
- Clark nevertheless sent his sons to Melbourne Grammar (Holt, A Short History, 149)
- Holt, A Short History, 12
- Holt, A Short History, 20. Holt notes: "The [Communist] party refused to countenance the slightest differences of opinion, which was anathema to Clark's delicately honed sense of individuality... Individual communists gave off a pervasive sense of smugness. Faith in Stalin's omniscience meant that they lacked a healthy sense of human fallibility."
- Holt, A Short History, 36
- Dickson in Carl Bridge, Manning Clark, 195. Examples of Clark's Anglophobia are given in Peter Ryan, "Manning Clark," Quadrant, August 1993, 9
- Holt, A Short History, 49
- Holt, A Short History, 66
- Ryan, "Manning Clark," 12
- Holt, A Short History, 75
- John Barrett, "The two Clarks," in Bridge, Manning Clark, 115
- C.M.H. Clark, "Rewriting Australian history," in T.A.G. Hungerford, Australian Signpost, Melbourne University Press 1956, 130. The lecture is now more readily accessible in Imre Salusinszky (editor), The Oxford Book of Australian Essays, Oxford University Press, 1997
- Holt, A Short History, 95
- Holt, A Short History, 96
- Paul Mortier, "The professor is baffled but the documents are clear," Tribune, 27 July 1955
- C.M.H Clark, "Faith," in Peter Coleman (editor), Australian Civilisation, F.W.Cheshire 1962. Coleman was later a state and federal Liberal MP and is the father-in-law of Peter Costello
- Coleman, Australian Civilisation, 7
- Cassandra Pybus, The Devil and James McAuley, University of Queensland Press 1999, 35, 115, 157
- Stuart Macintyre, "Always a pace or two apart," in Bridge, Manning Clark, 19
- Holt, A Short History, 89
- Holt, A Short History, 107
- Manning Clark, A Historian's Apprenticeship, Melbourne University Press, 1992, 2
- Clark, Historian's Apprenticeship, 4
- J.S. Ryan, "A History of Australia as epic," in Bridge, Manning Clark, 61
- M.H. Ellis, "History without facts," The Bulletin, 22 September 1962
- Clark, Historian's Apprenticeship, 8, and Holt, A Short History, 139
- Stuart Macintyre, "Manning Clark's critics," Meanjin, Vol 41 No 4, 1982, 442
- Holt, A Short History, 138-145
- Macintyre, "Manning Clark's critics," 443
- Ryan confirms this several times in his Quadrant article of 1993.
- Quoted in Holt, A Short History, 137
- Quotes as given by Macintyre in Bridge, Manning Clark, 24
- Holt, A Short History, 116-120
- P.A. Howell, "In Khruschev's Russia," in Bridge, Manning Clark, 56
- Tribune, 2 March 1960, paraphrased by Howell in Bridge, Manning Clark, 59
- Andrew Clark at the Manning Clark House website
- P.A. Howell, "In Khruschev's Russia," in Bridge, Manning Clark, 56
- Holt, Short History, xi
- A Man of Contradictions, Peter Craven's review of Stephen Holt's book
- Macintyre, "Manning Clark's critics," Meanjin, 446
- Holt, A Short History, 171. Holt does not mention the Solidarity demonstration in his text, but reproduces a photo of Clark taking part in the demonstration.
- Holt, A Short History, 191
- Holt, A Short History, 151-152
- Holt, A Short History, 169
- Alan Atkinson, "A great historian?", in Bridge, Manning Clark, 124
- Holt, A Short History, 177
- Holt, A Short History, 181
- Holt, A Short History, 187
- Holt, A Short History, 197
- Holt, A Short History, 198
- Holt, A Short History, 213
- Like Clark, White was regarded as a conservative in the 1950s, and his bleak and pessimistic novels were regularly attacked in Meanjin (let alone Tribune) by writers of the progressive-nationalist and social-realist schools. Like Clark, he turned to the left in the later 1960s, partly because of his opposition to the Vietnam War, and became an enthusiastic partisan of left-wing causes, without much changing his literary style or his basic outlook.
- Edward Kynaston attacked Clark in The Australian (24 October 1981), and Claudio Veliz, Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University, did so in Quadrant (Claudio Veliz, "Bad history," Quadrant, May 1982)
- See for example "The two Clarks," by a former student, Dr John Barrett in Bridge, Manning Clark, 113
- Ryan, "Manning Clark," 14. (The potency of this allegation is somewhat weakened by the fact that Quadrant is a forum for conservative polemic rather than a learned journal: very few professional historians would regard it as a suitable place to review a volume of history. This point is made by Peter Craven in "The Ryan Affair" in Bridge, Manning Clark, 174)
- Quoted (but without citing a source) by Barrett in Bridge, Manning Clark, 115
- Bill Cope, Review of A History of Australia, Volume VI, by Manning Clark, Labour History, No 1, 1988
- John Hirst, "Australian history and European civilisation," Quadrant volume 37 no 5 1993, 28. The relevant passage is reprinted as "The Whole Game Escaped Him", in Bridge, Manning Clark, 117
- Robert Manne, "Manning Clark, Peter Ryan and us," Quadrant, October 1993, 2
- Ryan, "Manning Clark," 10
- Ryan, "Manning Clark," 19
- Holt, A Short History, 159.
- Australian Press Council Adjudication, Adjudication No. 890 (November 1996) [1996 APC 64]
- Robert Manne and Michael Thwaites quoted: Courier-Mail's defamatory comments on a great dead man, Manning Clark, exposed
- Bird, David (July 2011). "Manning Clark and the Nazis". Quadrant Magazine 55 (7). Retrieved on 3 October 2013.
- Manning Clark House website
- Manning Clark House website