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Archive of William Clark


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The bulk of the Clark papers (MSS. William Clark 1-159), which were acquired in 1986, are an indispensable source for the study of the history of the Observer newspaper, the early days of political broadcasting, postwar politics in Britain and the United States and Third World issues. The second part of the collection (MSS. William Clark 160-88), which was discovered in 1990 in Clark's old office at IIED, is mainly concerned with his Presidency of the Institute, but also includes the original typescript of the Downing Street diary (MS. William Clark 160) previously thought to be lost. The letters sent to Clark after his resignation in 1956, and later used in the posthumous volume of memoirs, From Three Worlds (London, 1986) were not among the papers which came to the Library, and cannot now be located. Clark's fondness for dropping the names of the 'Great and the Good' into conversations at every opportunity is legendary but as the index to the catalogue reveals he could number many of them among his wide circle of friends and acquaintances on both sides of the Atlantic and in several continents.


  • Creation: 1933-85


20.79 Linear metres (189 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is restricted.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. William Clark 1, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. William Clark 1-189; Photogr. c. 16-18

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 7010, 12146


Archive of William Donaldson Clark (1916-85) journalist and development worker, 1933-85

Biographical / Historical

William Donaldson Clark was born in Northumberland in July 1916 and educated at Oundle School and Oriel College, Oxford, where he obtained a First Class degree in modern history. The award of a Commonwealth Fellowship took him to the University of Chicago where he remained until 1940. Exempted from military service because of an adolescent knee injury which was to trouble him all his life, Clark spent most of the war years working in the Chicago office of the British Information Services. In 1945 he moved to Washington to take up the post of Press Attaché at the Embassy. It was in these years that Clark met many of the American journalists and broadcasters who feature so strongly in this collection.

Clark returned to London in 1946 to edit the Encyclopaedia Britannica and work part time for the Observer. In 1949 he joined the paper on a full-time basis and for the next six years combined his work as diplomatic editor and the author of the Pendennis column with his developing career in broadcasting. In late 1955, on the recommendation of Sir Anthony Rumbold (whose papers are also in the Bodleian), Clark was invited to become Press and Public Relations Adviser to the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, a position he held until October 1956 when he resigned in protest against the government's handling of the Suez crisis. Returning to the Observer. Clark spent a year abroad, mainly in India, reporting for the paper and the BBC, later becoming editor of the Observer's new column, 'This Week'.

Clark had been interested in Third World issues for many years. In 1960 he left the Observer to take up the post of Director of the new Overseas Development Institute. Seven years later his attempts to revitalise the First United Nations Development Decade, launched by President Kennedy in 1961, brought him into contact with the retiring President of the World Bank, George Woods, who subsequently invited Clark to become the Bank's Director of Information and Public Affairs. The appointment coincided with the arrival of Robert McNamara, the former US Secretary of Defense, as the new President of the Bank. Working closely with McNamara, first as Director of Public Relations and then as Vice-President of the World Bank with responsibility for External Relations, Clark made an important contribution to the work of the Bank during the years 1974-80. In 1980 Clark returned to London to take his place as President of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a post he held until his death in 1985.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The archive was given to the Library by Lord Hemingford, the nephew of William Clark, and catalogued with the assistance of Oonagh Pollock and Sally Mason.

Catalogue of the archive of William Clark, 1933-85
Helen Langley
Language of description
Script of description
Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom