Author(s): Mark McKenna
More than any other historian in the twentieth century, Manning Clark inspired the love and loathing of political parties, professional colleagues and the general public. Throughout his life, he played several roles: teacher, author of the epic "A History of Australia", anointed historian of the Australian Labor Party, prophet and stirrer. From any vantage point-intellectual, literary, political-Manning Clark's impact on Australia's culture is profound. As his biographer Mark McKenna reads it, the life of Clark is the biography of Australia, especially between the 1970s and 1990s. So much about these years was unique, so much of it now lost to view. The almost naive optimism, the sense of starting out, of awakening, the surge of creativity, the spirit of irreverence. The sudden realisation that we had a history all our own. This excitement was one shared by politicians, novelists, comedians, playwrights, poets, actors, artists and historians, many of whom corresponded as friends and admirers in a way that would now seem impossible.
Associate Professor Mark McKenna is Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Sydney.