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Christopher Clark

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Christopher Clark
Christopher Clark in 2013
Christopher Munro Clark

(1960-03-14) 14 March 1960 (age 64)
Sydney, Australia
SpouseNina Lübbren [de]
ChildrenTwo sons
AwardsWolfson History Prize
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisJewish mission in the Christian state: Protestant missions to the Jews in 18th- and 19th-century Prussia[1] (1991)
Doctoral advisorJonathan Steinberg
Academic work
InstitutionsSt Catharine's College, Cambridge
WebsiteCambridge Faculty of History page

Sir Christopher Munro Clark FBA (born 14 March 1960) is an Australian historian living in the United Kingdom and Germany. He is the twenty-second Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge. In the 2015 Birthday Honours, he was knighted for his services to Anglo-German relations.[2]

Education and academic positions[edit]

Clark was educated at Sydney Grammar School from 1972 to 1978, the University of Sydney (where he studied history) and the Freie Universität Berlin from 1985 to 1987.[3]

Clark received his PhD at the University of Cambridge, having been a member of Pembroke College from 1987 to 1991. He is Professor in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and, since 1991, has been a fellow of St Catharine's College,[4] where he is currently Director of Studies in History.

In 2003, Clark was appointed lecturer in Modern European History and, in 2006, reader in Modern European History. His Cambridge University professorship in history followed in 2008.[5]

In September 2014 he succeeded Richard J. Evans as Regius Professor of History at Cambridge. In the birthday honours of June 2015, Clark was knighted on the recommendation of the foreign secretary for his services to Anglo-German relations.[2]

Professional career[edit]

As he acknowledges in the foreword to Iron Kingdom,[6] living in West Berlin from 1985 to 1987, during what turned out to be the last years of the divided Germany, gave him an insight into German history and society.

Earlier work[edit]

Clark's academic focus started with the history of Prussia, with his earlier researches concentrating on Pietism and on Judaism in Prussia as well as the power struggle, known as the Kulturkampf, between Bismarck's Prussian state and the Catholic Church. His scope has since broadened to embrace more generally the competitive relationships between religious institutions and the state in modern Europe. He is the author of a study of Christian–Jewish relations in Prussia, The Politics of Conversion. Missionary Protestantism and the Jews in Prussia, 1728–1941.[7]

Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947[edit]

Clark's best-selling history of Prussia, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947[8] won several prizes. Its critical reception gave him a public profile that reached beyond the academic world. The German-language version of the book, Preußen. Aufstieg und Niedergang 1600–1947, won Clark the 2010 German Historians' Prize [de], an award normally given to historians nearing the end of their careers. Clark remains (in 2014) the youngest-ever recipient of the triennial prize and the only winner not to have approached his work as a mother-tongue German-speaker.

In 17 chapters covering 800 pages, Clark contends that Germany was "not the fulfillment of Prussia's destiny but its downfall".[9] Although the 19th-century Kulturkampf was characterised by a peculiar intensity and radicalism, Clark's careful study of sources in several different European languages enabled him to spell out just how closely the Prussian experience of church-state rivalry resembled events elsewhere in Europe. In that way, the book powerfully rebuts the traditional Sonderweg bandwagon by which throughout the 20th century, mainstream historians placed great emphasis on the "differentness" of Germany's historical path before and during the 19th century. Clark downplays the perceived uniqueness of the much-vaunted reform agenda, which was pursued by Prussia between 1815 and 1848, and believes that the political and economic significance of the German customs union, established in 1834, came to be discovered and then overstated by historians only retrospectively and in the light of much-later political developments.

Kaiser Wilhelm II[edit]

With his critical biography of the last German Kaiser, Kaiser Wilhelm II,[10] Clark aims to offer correctives to many of the traditional positions presented in J. C. G. Röhl's three-volume biography of Wilhelm.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914[edit]

Clark's study of the outbreak of the First World War, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, appeared in English in 2012;[11] the German version (Die Schlafwandler: Wie Europa in den Ersten Weltkrieg zog) followed in 2013. The book challenges the imputation, which had been widely accepted by mainstream scholars since 1919, of a peculiar "war guilt" attaching to the German Empire. He instead maps carefully the complex mechanism of events and misjudgements that led to war.[12][13] There was in 1914 nothing inevitable about the war. Risks inherent in the strategies pursued by the various governments involved had been taken before without catastrophic consequences, which now enabled leaders to follow similar approaches without adequately evaluating or recognising those risks. Among international experts, many saw the presentation by Clark of his research and insights as groundbreaking.[14]

In Germany itself, where the book received much critical attention, not all reactions were positive. Volker Ullrich contended that Clark's analysis largely disregards the pressure for war coming from Germany's powerful military establishment.[15] According to Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Clark had diligently researched the sources covering the war's causes from the German side only to "eliminate [many of them] with bewildering one-sidedness". Wehler attributed the sales success of the book in Germany to a "deep-seated need [on the part of German readers], no longer so constrained by the taboos characteristic of the later twentieth century, to free themselves from the burdensome allegations of national war guilt".[16] However, Clark observes that the current German debate about the start of the war is obfuscated by its link to their moral repugnance at the Nazi era.[17]

Other work[edit]

Clark at the 50th German Historians' Convention in Göttingen (2014)

Clark is also the co-editor with Wolfram Kaiser of a transnational study of secular-clerical conflict in 19th-century Europe (Culture Wars. Catholic-Secular Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), and the author of numerous articles and essays. Professor Clark presented the BBC Four documentary programme "Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia".[18] He also presented and narrated the 2017 ZDF documentary The Story of Europe.[19]

Since 1998, Clark has been a series-editor of the scholarly book series New Studies in European History from Cambridge University Press.[20] He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities[21] and a prominent member of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Preußischen Geschichte [de] (en: Prussian History Working Group).[22] Since 2009 he has been a member of the Preußische Historische Kommission [Prussian Historical Commission], and since 2010 a senior advisory (non-voting) member of the German Historical Institute London and of the Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung [de] [Bismarck Foundation] in Friedrichsruh.[20] In 2010, Clark was elected a member of the British Academy.[20]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Clark in 2019

In 2019, Clark was embroiled in controversy surrounding his 2011 report, commissioned by the head of the Hohenzollern family, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, on the Hohenzollern family's relations with the Nazis. The report was in support of the family's claims for compensation under a 1994 German law allowing restitution for the loss of property confiscated by the German Democratic Republic if the claimants or their ancestors had not "given substantial support" to the National Socialist or the East German Communist regimes. Clark acknowledged that expressions of support for the Nazis had been made by the last Kaiser's eldest son, Wilhelm, the most senior member of the former dynasty in Germany in the 1920s and the 1930s and the owner of the Hohenzollern properties. However, his report concluded that Wilhelm was "one of the politically most reserved and least compromised persons" of the aristocratic Nazi collaborators and that he was simply too marginal a figure to have been able to give "significant support" to Hitler, a position that supported the Hohenzollerns' claims.[23]

Clark's report was criticised by two historians commissioned by the German state to consider the Hohenzollern claims: Peter Brandt [de], a specialist in Prussia and imperial Germany at the University of Hagen, and Stephan Malinowski [de], a German historian at the University of Edinburgh who is the author of the standard work on the relationship between the German aristocracy and the Nazi movement, Vom König zum Führer (2003). Brandt and Malinowski provided substantial further evidence of Wilhelm's support for the Nazis that Clark had overlooked. Their two reports leave no doubt about the prince's deep-seated anti-Semitism.[23] During the historical controversy that unfolded in the German press, Richard J. Evans, Clark's predecessor as Regius Professor of History (Cambridge), criticised his colleague for not reflecting more carefully before accepting offers to produce expert reports.[23] In 2020, however, Clark claimed to have changed his view and more or less agreed with Malinowski.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Clark and his wife, Nina Lübbren [de], have two sons.[25]

Awards and decorations[edit]


  • Clark, Christopher Munro (1991). Jewish mission in the Christian state: Protestant missions to the Jews in 18th- and 19th-century Prussia (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. ISNI 0000000135530317. Archived from the original on 5 July 2023. Retrieved 5 July 2023.

Books written

Books edited


  • — (22 November 2018). "This Is a Reality, Not a Threat". The New York Review of Books (reviews of Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History, and Robert H. Latiff, Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield). LXV (18): 53–54.



  1. ^ Clark 1991.
  2. ^ a b "Birthday Honours 2015 Diplomatic Service and Overseas List" (PDF). gov.uk. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  3. ^ "The Governing Body's Invitation Dinner" (PDF). St Catharine's College Society Magazine. September 1992. p. 18. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2023. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  4. ^ Faculty of History: Academic Staff: Further Details: Dr Christopher Clark, archived from the original on 19 July 2011, retrieved 30 November 2013
  5. ^ "Professor Christopher Clark, Regius Professor of History". Cambridge University. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  6. ^ Clark 2006, pp. iii, iv, xi.
  7. ^ Clark 1995.
  8. ^ Clark 2006.
  9. ^ "Nicht die Erfüllung Preußens, sondern sein Verderben". Christopher Clark: Preußen. Aufstieg und Niedergang. 1600–1947. 2007, p. 13.
  10. ^ Clark 2000.
  11. ^ "Interview mit Christopher Clark. "Dieser Krieg hat das ganze Jahrhundert entstellt"" (Deutschlandfunk interview in German, originally published in 2013, by Thilo Kößler with Clark about Clark's book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914). Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  12. ^ Berthold Seewald (25 October 2013). "Besessen von der deutschen Kriegsschuld". Die Welt. Retrieved 15 December 2014. Mit seinen neuen Thesen zum Kriegsausbruch 1914 provoziert der britische Historiker Christopher Clark heftige Debatten. In Potsdam stellte er sich seinen Kritikern – mit erstaunlichem Ergebnis.
  13. ^ Andreas Kilb (9 September 2013). "Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkriegs: Die Selbstzerstörung Europas". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  14. ^ Richard J. Evans. Review of Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers. How Europe Went to War in 1914 (London 2013). The New York Review of Books, 6 February 2014, pp. 14–17.
  15. ^ Volker Ullrich. "Zündschnur am Pulverfass" Die Zeit, 17 September 2013 (subscription required); Volker Ullrich. "1914: Nun schlittern sie wieder" Die Zeit, 16 January 2014 (subscription required). See also Annika Mombauer. "Julikrise und Kriegsschuld – Thesen und Stand der Forschung" Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte [de] 64 (2014), no. 16/17, pp. 10–17.
  16. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler. "Beginn einer neuen Epoche der Weltkriegsgeschichte", Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 6 May 2014, no. 104, p. 10 (in German)
  17. ^ Clark 2012, pp. 560–561.
  18. ^ "BBC Four – Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  19. ^ "The Story of Europe". SBS On Demand. 1 December 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2020.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ a b c "Christopher Clark's online résumé/cv which includes the dates of various awards and appointments" (PDF). Retrieved 24 June 2014.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ a b c d "Christopher M. Clark". Contemporary Authors Online – Biography in Context. Detroit: Gale. 2010. Gale Document Number: GALE H1000196693. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  22. ^ "Short biographical newspaper article on Clark evidencing his membership of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Preußischen Geschichte". Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  23. ^ a b c "What Do the Hohenzollerns Deserve?" by David Motadel, The New York Review of Books, 26 March 2020 (subscription required)
  24. ^ Fanizadeh, Andreas (12 December 2020). "Preußen-Historiker Clark rudert zurück: Kampf um das Tafelsilber". Die Tageszeitung: Taz.
  25. ^ "1914/2014 – Lernen wir aus der Geschichte?" Archived 5 November 2017 at the Wayback Machine by Richard David Precht, ZDF, 16 February 2014. Accessed 1 October 2017 (in German)
  26. ^ "h-net.msu.edu". Archived from the original on 29 December 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  27. ^ http://www.caths.cam.ac.uk/alumni/society/london_branch/downloads/Professor_Chris_Clark.pdf Accessed 27 January 2014 [dead link]
  28. ^ "Wulff verleiht Historikerpreis an Australier Clark" [Wulff awards Historians' Prize to Australian Clark]. Augsburger Allgemeine (in German). dpa. 11 November 2010. Archived from the original on 7 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  29. ^ Press Release (21 November 2013). "Ann Applebaum wins 2013 Cundill Prize". McGill University. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  30. ^ Carolyn Kellogg (11 April 2014). "Jacket Copy: The winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are ..." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  31. ^ Felicity Capon (8 April 2013). "Keith Lowe awarded the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for history". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  32. ^ Monica Caro (26 February 2015). "Nanovic Institute awards $10,000 Laura Shannon Prize to 'The Sleepwalkers'". Notre Dame News. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  33. ^ "No. 61256". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2015. p. B2.
  34. ^ "Laudatio von Bundestagspräsident Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble auf Christopher..." Deutscher Bundestag (in German). Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  35. ^ "Orden Pour le mérite wählt neue Mitglieder". bundesregierung.de (in German). Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung. 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Cambridge Regius Professor of History