Christopher Clark

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Sir Christopher Clark

Christopher Clark Frankfurter Buchmesse 2013 1.JPG
Christopher Clark in 2013
Christopher Munro Clark

(1960-03-14) 14 March 1960 (age 60)
Sydney, Australia
Alma mater
Spouse(s)Nina Lübbren [de]
ChildrenTwo sons
AwardsWolfson History Prize
Scientific career
InstitutionsSt Catharine's College, Cambridge
ThesisJewish mission in the Christian state: Protestant missions to the Jews in 18th- and 19th-century Prussia (1991)
Doctoral advisorJonathan Steinberg
WebsiteCambridge Faculty of History page

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

Education and academic promotions[edit]

Christopher Clark was educated at Sydney Grammar School between 1972 and 1978, the University of Sydney where he studied History, and between 1985 and 1987 the Freie Universität Berlin.

He received his PhD at the University of Cambridge, having been a member of Pembroke College, Cambridge 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,[3] where he is currently Director of Studies in History. In 2003 Clark was appointed University Lecturer in Modern European History, and in 2006 Reader in Modern European History. His Cambridge University professorship in history followed in 2008.[4] In September 2014 he succeeded Richard J. Evans as Regius Professor of History at Cambridge. In the Birthday honours of June 2015 Professor Clark was knighted on the recommendation of the Foreign Secretary for his services to Anglo-German relations.[2]

Professional life[edit]

As he acknowledges in the foreword to Iron Kingdom,[5] living in West Berlin between 1985 and 1987, during what turned out to be almost the last years of the divided Germany, gave him an insight into German history and society.

Earlier work[edit]

Clark's academic focus starts with the History of Prussia, his earlier researches concentrating on Pietism and on Judaism in Prussia, as well as the power struggle, known as the Kulturkampf, between the Prussian state under Bismarck and the Catholic Church. From this his scope has 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; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

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

Professor Clark's best-selling history of Prussia (Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947; London: Penguin, 2006) won several prestigious prizes and its critical reception gave him a public profile that reached well beyond the academic world. The German language version of the book, entitled Preußen. Aufstieg und Niedergang 1600–1947, won for Clark the 2010 German Historians' Prize [de], an award normally given to historians nearing the ends of their careers. Clark remains (in 2014) the youngest ever recipient of this triennial prize, and the only one of the winners 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".[6] Although the nineteenth 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 this way the book powerfully rebuts the traditional Sonderweg bandwagon, whereby throughout the twentieth century mainstream historians have placed great emphasis on the "differentness" of Germany's historical path, before and during the nineteenth century. Clark downplays the perceived uniqueness of the much vaunted reform agenda pursued by Prussia between 1815 and 1848. He 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; Harlow: Longman, 2000, series "Profiles in Power"), 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;[7] the German version (Die Schlafwandler: Wie Europa in den Ersten Weltkrieg zog) followed in 2013. The book challenges the imputation, hitherto widely accepted by mainstream scholars since 1919, of a peculiar "war guilt" attaching to the German Empire, instead mapping carefully the complex mechanism of events and misjudgements that led to war.[8][9] There was, in 1914, nothing inevitable about it. Risks inherent in the strategies pursued by the various governments involved had been taken before without catastrophic consequences: this now enabled leaders to follow similar approaches while not adequately evaluating or recognising those risks. Among international experts many saw this presentation by Clark of his research and insights as groundbreaking.[10]

In Germany itself, where the book received much critical attention, reactions were not all positive. Volker Ullrich contended that Clark's analysis largely disregards the pressure for war coming from Germany's powerful military establishment.[11] 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" ("verblüffend einseitig eliminiert"). Warming to his theme, 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".[12] Yet Clark observes that the current German debate about the start of World War I is obfuscated by its link to their moral repugnance at the Nazi era.[13]

Other work[edit]

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

Christopher Clark is also the co-editor with Wolfram Kaiser of a transnational study of secular-clerical conflict in nineteenth-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".[14] He also presented and narrated the 2017 ZDFE documentary "The Story of Europe".[15]

Since 1998 Clark has been a series-editor of the scholarly book series New Studies in European History from Cambridge University Press.[16] He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities[1] and a prominent member of the Mannheim based Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Preußischen Geschichte [de] (Prussian History Working Group).[17] 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 London-based German Historical Institute and of the Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung [de] (Bismarck foundation) in Friedrichsruh.[16] 2010 was also the year in which Clark was elected a member of the British Academy.[16]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Christopher M. Clark (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 on condition that the claimants or their ancestors had not "given substantial support" to the National Socialist or 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 1930s and the owner of the Hohenzollern properties. But his report concluded that Wilhelm was "one of the politically most reserved and least compromised persons" among 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.[18]

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.[18]

Amidst 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.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Clark and his wife, Nina Lübbren [de], have two sons.[19]

Awards and decorations[edit]



  • Clark, Christopher (2019). Time and Power – Visions of History in German Politics, from the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-18165-3.
  • Clark, Christopher M. (2012). The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 9780713999426. LCCN 2012515665.
  • Clark, Christopher M. (2006). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674023854. LCCN 2006043076. Published in Germany as Preußen: Aufstieg und Niedergang 1600–1947 by DVA, 2007
  • Clark, Christopher M. (2000). Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power. Harlow, England, & New York: Longman. ISBN 0582245591. LCCN 00030939.
  • Clark, Christopher M. (1995). The Politics of Conversion: Missionary Protestantism and the Jews in Prussia, 1728–1941. Oxford Clarendon Press & New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198204566. LCCN 95154541.

Books edited[edit]


  • Christopher Clark, "'This Is a Reality, Not a Threat'" (review of Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History, Public Affairs, 2018, 376 pp.; and Robert H. Latiff, Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield, Knopf, 2018, 192 pp.), The New York Review of Books, vol. LXV, no. 18 (22 November 2018), pp. 53–54.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Christopher M. Clark". Contemporary Authors Online – Biography in Context. Detroit: Gale. 2010. Gale Document Number: GALE H1000196693. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Birthday Honours 2015 Diplomatic Service and Overseas List" (PDF). Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  3. ^ Faculty of History: Academic Staff: Further Details: Dr Christopher Clark, archived from the original on 19 July 2011, retrieved 30 November 2013
  4. ^ "Christopher Clark's page on the Cambridge University website". Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  5. ^ Clark, Christopher M. (2006). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947. Harvard University Press. pp. iii, iv, xi. ISBN 9780674023857. Retrieved 30 November 2013. chris clark nina.
  6. ^ "Nicht die Erfüllung Preußens, sondern sein Verderben". Christopher Clark: Preußen. Aufstieg und Niedergang. 1600–1947. 2007, S. 13.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Andreas Kilb (9 September 2013). "Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkriegs: Die Selbstzerstörung Europas". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Volker Ullrich. "Zündschnur am Pulverfass." Die Zeit, 17 September 2013; Volker Ullrich. "1914: Nun schlittern sie wieder." Die Zeit, 16 January 2014. 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.
  12. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler. "Beginn einer neuen Epoche der Weltkriegsgeschichte." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 6 May 2014, no. 104, p. 10 (in German)
  13. ^ Clark, The Sleepwalkers (2012, 2013), pp. 560–561.
  14. ^ "BBC Four – Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  15. ^ Demand, SBS (1 December 2018). "The Story of Europe". SBS On Demand. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  16. ^ a b c "Christopher Clark's online résumé/cv which includes the dates of various awards and appointments" (PDF). Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  17. ^ "Short biographical newspaper article on Clark evidencing his Mitgliedschaft der (membership of the) Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Preußischen Geschichte .... in Mannheim (in moderately simple German)". Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  18. ^ a b c "What Do the Hohenzollerns Deserve?" by David Motadel, The New York Review of Books, 26 March 2020 (subscription required)
  19. ^ "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)
  20. ^ "". Archived from the original on 29 December 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  21. ^ Accessed 27 January 2014[dead link]
  22. ^ "Wulff verleiht Historikerpreis an Australier Clark" [Wulff awards Historians' Prize to Australian Clark]. Augsburger Allgemeine (in German). dpa. 11 November 2010.
  23. ^ Press Release (21 November 2013). "Ann Applebaum wins 2013 Cundill Prize". McGill University. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  24. ^ Carolyn Kellogg (11 April 2014). "Jacket Copy: The winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are ..." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  25. ^ Felicity Capon (8 April 2013). "Keith Lowe awarded the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for history". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  26. ^ Monica Caro (26 February 2015). "Nanovic Institute awards $10,000 Laura Shannon Prize to 'The Sleepwalkers'". Notre Dame News. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  27. ^ "No. 61256". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2015. p. B2.
  28. ^ "Orden Pour le mérite wählt neue Mitglieder". (in German). Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung. 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Richard J. Evans
Cambridge Regius Professor of History