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George Norman Clark

Sir George Clark
Born George Norman Clark
(1890-02-27)27 February 1890
Died 6 February 1979(1979-02-06) (aged 88)
Nationality British
Fields History (Early Modern Europe)
Institutions University of Oxford
University of Cambridge
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty
Notable awards Fellow of the British Academy (1936)
Knight Bachelor (1953)
Military career
Allegiance 23x15px United Kingdom
Service/branch 22x20px British Army
Years of service 1914–1919
Rank Captain
Unit Post Office Rifles
Battles/wars World War I

Sir George Norman Clark, FBA (27 February 1890 – 6 February 1979) was an English historian, academic and British Army officer. He was the Chichele Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford from 1931 to 1943 and the Regius Professor of Modern History at The University of Cambridge from 1943 to 1947. He served as Provost of Oriel College, Oxford from 1947 to 1957.

Early life

Clark was born on 27 February 1890 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England, to James Walker Clark and his wife Mary Clark (née Midgley).[1] He was educated at Bootham School, and independent boarding school in York and at Manchester Grammar School, a Grammar School in Manchester.[2]

In 1908, he matriculated into Balliol College, Oxford to study classics as a Brackenbury Scholar.[3] In 1911, he achieved a first class in Literae Humaniores.[2] He then changed to modern history and graduated in 1912 with a first class honours Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.[3] In 1912, he was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford and spent time abroad learning foreign languages.[2]


Military service

Clark had been a member of the Officers' Training Corps attached to the University of Oxford during his studies.[2] On 26 August 1914, he was commissioned into the Post Office Rifles, British Army, as a second lieutenant.[4] On 27 May 1915, he was promoted to lieutenant.[5] During the early part of World War I, he was wounded twice.[1]

In May 1916, while fighting in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, he was taken prisoner by the Germans.[2][6] At the time of his capture, he held the rank of captain.[7] He was held in Gütersloh and Krefeld, and spent his time learning languages.[2] He was also involved in writing plays for fellow prisoners to perform, one of which was performed postwar at the Haymarket Theatre, London.[1] He was released at the end of hostilities and returned to Britain.[2]

Academic career

Having been elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford in 1912, Clark's academic career truly started in 1919 when he was elected a Fellow and lecturer of Oriel College, Oxford.[3]

He became the inaugural Chichele Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford in 1931 (with the accompanying Fellowship at All Souls), a post he held until 1943. From then until 1947 he was Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University and a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Between 1947 and 1957, he was Provost of Oriel College, Oxford.

Clark wrote a general introduction to the second edition of the Cambridge Modern History (1957), criticising the belief of some historians (in particular Lord Acton who had edited the first edition over half a century earlier) that eventually it would be possible to write an "ultimate history", rather they should expect their works to be built on and superseded by later historians. He stated that "knowledge of the past has come down through one or more human minds, has been processed by them, and therefore cannot consist of elemental and impersonal atoms which nothing can alter..."[8]

Between the 1930s and 1960s Clark was the editor overseeing the Oxford History of England series, and wrote Volume X: The Later Stuarts, 1660–1714 (1934), which was the first of the series to be published. He was twice editor of the English Historical Review.


For his service during world War I, he was awarded the following medals; the 1914–15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was knighted in 1953.[9]

Clark was elected Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) in 1936.[10] He was a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[11]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Sir George Norman Clark". Munks Roll. Royal College of Physicians. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Whiteman, Anne (2004). "Clark, Sir George Norman (1890–1979)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Recent Deaths". The American Historical Review (American Historical Association) 85 (4): 1050–51. October 1980. doi:10.1086/567686. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  4. The London Gazette: no. 28879. p. 6708. 25 August 1914. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 29568. p. 4462. 5 May 1916. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  6. "Sir George Clark.". The Times (60478). 19 November 1979. 
  7. "News in Brief.". The Times (41191). 12 June 1916. p. 3. 
  8. The New Cambridge Modern History, I, (1957), pp. xxiv–xxv.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 39904. p. 3676. 3 February 1953.
  10. "CLARK, Sir (27/02/1890-06/02/1979)". British Academy Fellows. British Academy. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  11. "Changes in the Membership 1979–1980". Records of the Academy (American Academy of Arts and Sciences) (1979): 50. 1979. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 

External links

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