Guide to the Papers of Peter Ryan

MS 9897

National Library of Australia

Date completed: October 2005
Last updated: November 2005

Collection Summary

Creator: Ryan, Peter, 1923-
Title: Papers of Peter Ryan
Date Range: 1927-2003 (bulk 1962-1996)
Collection Number: MS 9897
Extent: 1.82 metres (13 boxes)
Repository: National Library of Australia


Scope and Content

The papers comprise correspondence, newspaper cuttings, talks, photographs, articles, research notes, reviews, handwritten notes, legal documentation, patrol reports and conference papers. The largest series in the collection relates to Manning Clark and consists of extensive newspaper cuttings, correspondence, drafts of articles and notes covering the controversy caused by Ryan's criticism in Quadrant (1993) of A History of Australia and Manning Clark as a historian generally, and claims by the Brisbane Courier Mail (1996) that Clark received an Order of Lenin medal during the Cold War.

Correspondents include Manning Clark, Sir Zelman Cowen, Geoffrey Blainey, Sir John Barry, Robin Boyd, Michael Cannon, L. F. (Fin) Crisp, Beatrice Davis, Geoffrey Dutton, Tom Fitzgerald, Ian Fitchett, Bill Gammage, Alec Hope, Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir Keith Hancock, Harry Jackman, Ken Inglis, John La Nauze, Alan Marshall, Sir Walter Murdoch, Susan Ryan, Alec Bolton, Ross Campbell, Blanche D'Alpuget, B. A. Santamaria, Geoffrey Serle, Kenneth Slessor, Gavin Souter, Jim Taylor, Patrick White, William Macmahon Ball, Hilary McPhee, Sir John Minogue, Stuart Macintyre, Stephen Murray-Smith, Hugh Stretton, Clem Semmler and Maslyn Williams.


Most of the papers had been arranged by Peter Ryan into labelled and dated files that formed six logical series. The personal and semi-official correspondence was received in two expanding files (1962-1982 and 1983-1988) and a lever arch file in alphabetical order by name of correspondent. The remainder of the collection was filed in manila folders.

The Library has retained the order of each of the files and, for the most part, the original folder titles. The general arrangement into six series and the order of the files within series has been imposed by the Library, as has the series relating to Manning Clark (Series 6). As many of the manila folders were large, it was often necessary to divide the contents into two or more envelope folders. (Thus the folder 'Articles and speeches prior to 1977', 1 of 2, indicates that the original folder has been divided into two).


The collection is available for reference.


The papers were purchased by the Library from Peter Ryan in December 2003.

Copying and Publishing

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Related Material

Correspondence of Peter Ryan is held in a number of manuscript collections including the Papers of Manning Clark (MS 7550), Gavin Souter (MS 8604), L.F. Crisp (MS 5243), William Macmahon Ball (MS 7851) and Robert Brissenden (MS 8162). The Papers of Dymphna Clark (MS 9873), Stuart Macintyre (MS 9389) and Humphrey McQueen (MS 4809) contain similar material relating to the Manning Clark controversies of 1993 and 1996. The Papers of John Black (MS 8346) and Jim Taylor (MS 9218) both include material relating to the Hagen-Sepik patrol in Papua New Guinea, 1938-1939.

An oral history interview with Peter Ryan by John Farquharson (2000) is held in the Oral History Section at ORAL TRC 4631.

The Library also holds Ryan's published works, including: Fear drive my feet (1959) Redmond Barry (1972) William Macmahon Ball: a memoir (1990) Black bonanza : a landslide of gold (1991) Chance encounters: A.D. Hope with a memoir of A.D. Hope by Peter Ryan (1992) Lines of fire : Manning Clark and other writings (1997) Brief Lives(2004).

The University of Melbourne Archives holds records of the Melbourne University Press.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Peter Ryan, National Library of Australia, MS 9897, [series and/or folder number]'.

Biographical Note

Peter Allen Ryan was born on 4 September in 1923, one of three sons to Emmett Ryan and his wife Doreen (née Allen). After being educated at Malvern Grammar School, he joined the Victorian Crown Law Department. He left in 1941 at the age of eighteen to enlist in the Army. For eighteen months he worked on special intelligence work in New Guinea behind the Japanese lines, he won the Military Medal in 1943, and was mentioned in dispatches. When he returned to Australia he was posted to Victoria Barracks in Melbourne. In 1944-1945 he was an officer in the Army's Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs under Colonel Alf Conlon, serving both in Melbourne and at the LHQ School of Civil Affairs at Duntroon, Canberra.

In 1946 Ryan began studying at the University of Melbourne for an Arts degree, graduating with an honours degree in History in 1948. While studying Australian history he was taught by Manning Clark. Ryan eventually became Clark's publisher of the six volumes of a History of Australia. In 1993 Ryan caused a controversy by publishing a long essay in Quadrant criticising Clark's character and his writings.

Between 1958 and 1962, Ryan was Public Relations Manager of Imperial Chemical Industries, Australia and New Zealand (ICIANZ). In 1962 he became Director of Melbourne University Press (MUP), where he was to remain until his retirement in 1988. Works published during his directorship of MUP included the first twelve volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (to which Ryan was also a contributor), Insects of Australia and Norman Lindsay's Micomicana and books by such well-known authors as Manning Clark, Macfarlane Burnet, Paul Hasluck and A. D. Hope. Ryan was also pivotal in establishing the MUP's high quality publishing subsidiary, the Miegunyah Press.

Since the mid-1980s Ryan has held a number of executive positions, including member of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (1985-1988); Executive Officer for the Council of Legal Education (1988-2003); Administrative Officer, the Council of Law Reporting in Victoria; and Secretary of the Victorian Board of Examiners for Barristers and Solicitors. He retired from the latter two appointments in 2003.

In addition to numerous articles in the press, including The Australian and The Age, and book reviews and articles for Quadrant, Ryan has written several books including Fear Drive My Feet (1959), Redmond Barry (1972), William Macmahon Ball: A Memoir (1990), Black Bonanza: A Landslide of Gold (1991), Chance Encounters: A.D. Hope with a memoir of A.D. Hope by Peter Ryan (1992), Lines of Fire : Manning Clark and Other Writings (1997) and Brief Lives (2004).

Ryan married Gladys Davidson on 23 May 1947 and they have one son and one daughter.

Who's Who in Australia 2005, p. 1645
Samuel Griffith Society website:
Ryan, Peter. Lines of Fire: Manning Clark and Other Writings, 1997.

Series List and Descriptions

Series 1 Melbourne University Press, 1962-1988

This series contains Ryan's personal correspondence during his time as Director of Melbourne University Press (1962-1988). The correspondence was filed in a lever-arch folder (1962-1972) and two expanding files (1962-1982 and 1983-1988 respectively). For each folder, the correspondence has been arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

The correspondence includes both outgoing and incoming letters with authors and others regarding publishing projects, comments on manuscripts, jobs, references, invitations and congratulations on articles. The series also includes newspaper cuttings, photographs and several examples of file notes of telephone calls, meetings and conversations.

The last folder, miscellaneous correspondence, contains a mixture of correspondence of both a personal and semi-official nature, including responses to articles written by Ryan, advice on manuscripts and replies to invitations. Ryan maintained this correspondence in a separate manila folder.

Correspondents include Manning Clark, Sir Zelman Cowen, Sir John Bunting, Geoffrey Blainey, Sir John Barry, Robin Boyd, Michael Cannon, L.F. (Fin) Crisp, Beatrice Davis, Geoffrey Dutton, Tom Fitzgerald, Ian Fitchett, Bill Gammage, Alec Hope, Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir Keith Hancock, Harry Jackman, Ken Inglis, John La Nauze, Alan Marshall, Sir Walter Murdoch, Susan Ryan, Alec Bolton, Ross Campbell, Blanche D'Alpuget, B. A. Santamaria, Geoffrey Serle, Kenneth Slessor, Gavin Souter, Jim Taylor, Patrick White, William Macmahon Ball, Hilary McPhee, Sir John Minogue, Stuart Macintyre, Stephen Murray-Smith, Hugh Stretton, Clem Semmler and Maslyn Williams.

Subseries 1 Correspondence, 1962-1972

Folder 1 A-J
Folder 2 K-Z

Subseries 2 Correspondence, 1962-1982

Folder 3 A-C
Folder 4 D-F
Folder 5 G-J
Folder 6 K-M
Folder 7 N-R
Folder 8 S
Folder 9 T-W

Subseries 3 Correspondence, 1983-1988

Folder 10 A
Folder 11 B
Folder 12 C
Folder 13 D-F
Folder 14 G-J
Folder 15 K-L
Folder 16 M
Folder 17 N-R
Folder 18 S-T
Folder 19 W-Z
Folder 20 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1976-1980

Series 2 Articles, speeches and reviews, 1967-1998

This series mainly consists of articles and reviews for the Age, National Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Financial Review and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It also includes correspondence with editors and publishers, as well as responses from readers, original typed reviews together with the published version, and invoices and payments received for articles and reviews written by Ryan.

The series is well organised into manila envelope files with titles named and written by Ryan. From 1981, Ryan maintained a list of the articles, the newspapers they were written for and the fees received inside the cover of each folder.

The folder titled 'Nation Years' consists of correspondence with Penguin relating to 'Nation Years', a book contracted for but never prepared or published. The book was to be a study of the Sydney-based journal, the Nation, from the late 1950s until the 1970s. Ken Inglis later edited a book on the journal, Nation: The Life of an Independent Journal of Opinion, 1958-1972 (1989).

The last file, miscellaneous correspondence, mainly contains responses from readers in relation to articles written by Ryan.

Correspondents in this series include Leonie Kramer, Russell Drysdale, Ken Inglis, Paul Hasluck, Ian Fitchett, Harry Jackman, Manning Clark, Alec Hope, E. G. Whitlam, Betty Riddell, Allan Martin, Lady Casey, Geoffrey Blainey, Tom Fitzgerald, Maslyn Williams, Sir Walter Crocker, Don Baker, Geoffrey Dutton and Judith Wright.

Folder 1-2 Articles and speeches prior to 1977, c.1967-1977
Folder 3 Articles and speeches, 1978
Folder 4 Articles and speeches, 1979
Folder 5 Articles and speeches, 1980
Folder 6-7 Newspaper articles, 1981
Folder 8 'Nation Years', 1982-1984
Folder 9 Newspaper articles, 1983
Folder 10 Articles, 1984
Folder 11 Articles, 1985
Folder 12-13 Articles, 1986
Folder 14 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1987-1988

Series 3 Alfred Conlon (1908-1961), 1962-2001

During World War II Ryan worked under Colonel Alfred Conlon, head of the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, an Army research unit established at Land Headquarters. The main aim of the Directorate was to provide policy advice on the military government of Papua and New Guinea, and more general direct advice to the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Thomas Blamey.

Ryan's 'A. A. Conlon' file contains correspondence, photographs, draft articles, reviews, articles, research papers, research notes and newspaper cuttings. Much of the correspondence refers to the search for Conlon's papers.

The last folder in this series, 'Australian Dictionary of Biography article on Alf Conlon, 1990-1991', relates to Ryan's article on Conlon for Volume 13 of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB). The folder contains a draft article, correspondence with the ADB, research material and photocopies of the completed article.

Correspondents include Tom Fitzgerald, George Munster, Bob Reece, Sir Harold White, Stephen Murray-Smith and Harry Jackman.

Folder 1-4 A. A. Conlon, papers and research notes, 1962-2001
Folder 5 Australian Dictionary of Biography article on Alf Conlon, 1990-1991

Series 4 Libel action: Ryan v IPEC Australia Ltd, Richard Walsh and Owen Webster, 1971-1973

On 10 January 1971, Owen Webster wrote an article, which was published in The Sunday Review, as a response to an article written by Ryan in the Australian which criticised the Commonwealth Literary Fund Fellowships. Ryan made a claim for defamation in relation to Webster's article.

This series relates to Ryan's libel action against IPEC Australia Ltd, Richard Walsh and Owen Webster. It mainly comprises correspondence, particularly with Ryan's legal representatives, newspaper cuttings (including the original Ryan and Webster articles), affidavits and handwritten notes taken by Ryan following meetings, conversations and telephone discussions. Correspondents include Geoffrey Blainey, Michael Cannon, Stephen Murray-Smith and Olaf Ruhen.

The title and order of the original file has been retained.

Folder 1-2 Ryan v IPEC Australia, Richard Walsh and Owen Webster, 1971-1973

Series 5 Papua New Guinea Patrol Reports, 1927-1939

This series contains copies of patrol reports made by pre-World War The typescript patrol reports of J. K. McCarthy cover various districts of Two Papua New Guinea district officers, J. K. McCarthy, J.L. Taylor and John Black.

The typescript patrol reports of J. K. McCarthy cover various districts of Papua New Guinea and provide a survey of plantations and investigation of land disputes. There are also diary entries with descriptions of the country and people.

The 1938-1939 Hagen-Sepik patrol report by J. L. Taylor and John Black is more comprehensive and includes anthropological observations and a number of vocabularies made at an early point of contact. Bill Gammage wrote about the Hagen-Sepik patrol in his book, The Sky Travellers: Journeys in New Guinea, 1938-1939, which was published in 1998.

These copies were given to Ryan by the patrol officers themselves.

Folder 1 J. K. McCarthy Patrol Reports, 1927-1929
Folder 2 J. K. McCarthy Patrol Reports, 1932-1933
Folder 3 J. K. McCarthy Patrol Reports, 1934-1936
Folder 4 Hagen-Sepik Patrol Report by J. L. Taylor and John Black, 1938-1939

Series 6 Manning Clark, 1988-2003

Ryan was a former student of Manning Clark and publisher of Clark's six volume A History of Australia. In September 1993, two years after Clark's death, Quadrant published an article by Ryan, which criticised A History of Australia, Manning's work as an historian and his character in general. The article sparked a debate in the media amongst historians, academics, journalists and the wider Australian public.

This series consists of material relating to Manning Clark, from reviews of his work prior to his death in 1991 to contemporary references. The series comprises extensive newspaper cuttings, correspondence, reviews, conference papers, handwritten notes by Ryan, drafts of articles, articles, as well as notes of phone calls received by Ryan, notes for file, and obituaries of both Manning and Dymphna Clark. On many of the letters Ryan received he noted the date he replied to the letter, as well as his response.

Some of the papers in this series were already in folders and were given titles. Papers not filed in folders were arranged in sequential order by year date. Folders 2-5 include papers relating to the 1993 controversy and similar material can also be found in Folders 6 ('Manning Clark cuttings, letters and notes, 1993-1994') and 18 ('Peter Ryan v Manning Clark, 1993-1998). Folders 9-13 contain material relating to the Manning Clark and Order of Lenin allegations.

Folders 19 and 20 also contain stapled cuttings, correspondence and articles. Each of these has been compiled into folders and the titles of each folder have been retained. Both folders include correspondence with Bruce Ruxton, head of the Returned Services League (RSL) in Victoria, whose card is attached to one of the folders.

Correspondents include Colin Roderick, Heinz Arndt, Michael Cannon, Bruce Ruxton, Geoffrey Serle, Austin Gough, Elizabeth Durack and Peter Kelly.

Folder 1 Manning Clark, 1988-1992
Folder 2-4 Manning Clark, 1993
Folder 5 Manning Clark, 1994
Folder 6 Manning Clark cuttings, letters and notes, 1993-1994
Folder 7 Manning Clark, Quadrant, October (drafts), 1994
Folder 8 Manning Clark, 1995
Folder 9 Manning Clark, 1996
Folder 10-11 Manning Clark, Order of Lenin, 1996
Folder 12-13 Manning Clark, 1997
Folder 14 Manning Clark, 1998
Folder 15 Manning Clark, 1999
Folder 16 Manning Clark, 2000
Folder 17 Manning Clark, 2001-2003
Folder 18 'Peter Ryan v Manning Clark', 1993-1998
Folder 19 'Professor Manning Clark', 1997-2002
Folder 20 Manning Clark, 'The Unquiet Grave'
Folder 21 Miscellaneous papers relating to Manning Clark (includes an undated postcard and a 1973 letter from Clark; cuttings of reviews on Clark's work by Colin Roderick, 1978; and undated articles by Peter Craven and Don Watson)

Container List

Box Series Folder
1 1 1-5
2 1 6-10
3 1 11-15
4 1 16-20
5 2 1-4
6 2 5-10
7 2 11-14
7 3 1-2
8 3 3-5
8 4 1-2
9 5 1-4
9 6 1
10 6 2-6
11 6 7-12
12 6 13-18
13 6 19-21