Lives of the fellows

George Norman (Sir) Clark

b.27 February 1890 d.6 February 1979
Kt(1953) MA Oxon(1916) DLitt Oxon(1947) Hon FRCP(1965)†

Sir George Clark was the son of James Clark CBE JP, a draper, and Mary, née Midgeley. Born at Halifax, he was educated at Bootham School, Manchester Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he gained first classes in Literae Humaniores and modern history. Elected a Fellow of All Souls College in 1912, his career was interrupted by the 1914-1918 war. He served with the Post Office Rifles, was wounded twice and taken prisoner. To relieve the tedium of the prison camp he learnt Russian and wrote plays to be performed by his fellow prisoners, one of which was later put on at the Haymarket Theatre.

On return from the war he became lecturer, fellow, tutor and librarian of Oriel College. In 1929-1930 he served as proctor. His main writings included The Dutch Alliance and the War against French Trade; The Seventeenth Century; The Later Stuarts; Science and Social Welfare in the Age of Newton; Guide to English Commercial Statistics 1696—1782; The Colonial Conferences between England and the Netherlands; The Wealth of England 1498-1760; Early Modern Europe; War and Society in the Seventeenth Century, and The Campden Wonder. His last book, published when he was over 80, was the highly acclaimed English History. A Survey. In addition, he did much editorial work for the English Historical Review, the Home University Library, and the immense undertakings of the Oxford History of England and the New Cambridge Modern History.

In 1929 he was elected professor of economic history at Oxford and again became a fellow of All Souls. Two years later he was appointed to the regius professorship of modern history at Cambridge, with a fellowship at Trinity College. In 1947 he returned to Oxford as provost of Oriel College. Unlike most historians he did not have a ‘period’, but could write and speak on Greek, Roman, Byzantine, mediaeval or modern history with equal facility.

His connexion with the Royal College of Physicians began when Lord Moran invited him to undertake a definitive history of the College. This was an entirely new field to him, which he greatly enjoyed, and there resulted two notable volumes, entitled with characteristic understatement A History of the Royal College of Physicians of London. Sir George was also a trustee of the British Museum, a member of the University Grants Committee and president of the British Academy. Academic honours came to him from all over the world. He held honorary doctorates from the universities of Aberdeen, Cambridge, Colombia, Dublin, Durham, Hull, Sheffield and Utrecht, as well as membership of numerous learned societies.

In person he was a short, neat man with striking blue eyes. To the end of his life he kept a photographic memory, a most acute mind and a lively sense of humour. Despite his immense learning and distinction in many fields he was the most modest of men. He married Barbara, daughter of WB Keen; they had one son and one daughter.

AM Cooke

† The list of honorary degrees is too lengthy to include in entirety.

[Daily Telegraph, 7 Feb 1979; Times, 19 Nov 1979]

(Volume VII, page 99)

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