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Morrison, Allan Arthur (1911–1975)

by Ruth S. Kerr

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Allan Arthur Morrison (1911-1975), historian, was born on 23 November 1911 at Mount Morgan, Queensland, second son of Queensland-born parents Alexander Morrison, schoolteacher, and his wife Alice Ethel, née Jackson. Sent to Lockyer State High and Ipswich Grammar schools, Allan won the Lilley medal in 1925, the (T. J.) Byrnes medal in 1927 and a State open scholarship (1929) to the University of Queensland (B.A., 1933; M.A., 1935) where he graduated with first-class honours in history. He completed teacher-training, and was posted to Charleville State School in 1935. At the Albert Street Methodist Church, Brisbane, on 15 August 1936 he married Pauline Lucelle Joice.

After joining the university staff in 1945 as an assistant-lecturer in history, he rose to lecturer (1948), senior lecturer (1957) and reader (1971). He encouraged and promoted the work of the (Royal) Historical Society of Queensland as a member (1945), councillor (1945-48), president (1948-53) and fellow (1963). During his presidency he also served on the board of trustees of Newstead House. A member (1948) and chairman (1968-75) of the Oxley Memorial Library advisory committee, he fostered co-operation between the library and the R.H.S.Q.

In 1954 a Carnegie Corporation grant enabled Morrison to visit Britain and North America. He, Eunice Hanger and Roger Joyce travelled throughout Queensland in 1957-59, identifying government and semi-government records which were held in regional centres. Their work helped in the foundation of the Queensland State Archives. Morrison served on both the board and the committee established by the State's Place Names Act (1958). He chaired (1961-75) the Australian Dictionary of Biography's Queensland working party and contributed twenty-seven articles to the project. Colleagues appreciated his friendly manner and co-operative approach.

Gentle, modest and hard working, Morrison published works on local government and regional history, and was interested in class relations and class conflict. He suffered two personal blows in his academic career. His Ph.D. thesis on 'Liberalism in Queensland' (1842-1915) did not satisfy the examiners in 1955, and he was not commissioned to write a general history of Queensland for the centenary in 1959. A generation later one historian considered Morrison's thesis to be 'still the major work on Queensland history in the colonial period'.

Morrison's outstanding chapter on the long years (1915-57) of Australian Labor Party dominance in Queensland appeared in The Government of the Australian States (edited by S. R. Davies, Sydney, 1960). His study of colonial society in 1860-90—another pioneering work—was published in Queensland Heritage (1966). He collected sources for a general history of Queensland and had almost completed the manuscript when he fell ill. Survived by his son and two daughters, he died of cancer on 30 April 1975 in Brisbane and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Heritage, 3, no 4, 1976, p 3
  • Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 17, no 3, 1986, p 285.

Citation details

Ruth S. Kerr, 'Morrison, Allan Arthur (1911–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/morrison-allan-arthur-11175/text19911, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 June 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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