Malcolm Henry Ellis (1890-1969) was born at Narrine station, near Dirranbandi, Queensland. After finishing his schooling at Brisbane Grammar School, he joined the staff of the Brisbane Daily Mail in 1907. He transferred to the Brisbane Courier in 1910 before returning to the Mail as leader-writer and commercial editor. In 1917 he managed the National Party’s Senate campaign in Queensland. He was widely regarded as an outstanding journalist with a decidedly conservative outlook and in 1922 he became the chief political correspondent of the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. He was later in charge of its office in London. In 1933 he joined the staff of the Bulletin, where he remained until his retirement in 1965.

Ellis had a strong interest in Australian history and a capacity for sustained archival research. He wrote books on the history of primary and secondary industries, but he is best known for his biographies of Lachlan Macquarie (1947), Francis Greenway (1949) and John Macarthur (1955). A man of strong convictions and aggressive temperament, he clashed with a number of historians and writers and with organisations in which he had been active. He resigned from the Royal Australian Historical Society in 1954, the Australian Dictionary of Biography national committee in 1963 and the Australasian Pioneers Club in 1965.

Ellis was a lifelong opponent of communism and socialism. In the immediate postwar years his column in the Bulletin repeatedly warned of the spread of communism and its influence within the Australian Labor Party. He was the author of The red road (n.d.), Socialisation in ten years (1947) and The Garden path (1949).

The red road

Socialisation in ten years (1947)

The Garden path (1949)


At the suggestion of J.A. Ferguson, Ellis donated his collection of pamphlets to the National Library in 1952. Many of the works had formed the basis of his evidence to the Royal Commission into the Communist Party in Victoria in 1949.


The Ellis Collection comprises about 500 books, pamphlets, reports, leaflets, circulars, reprints and transcripts, mostly published between 1920 and 1950, relating to communism, the labour movement and international politics. The works are all in English and include translations of Russian and other European texts issued by Foreign Languages Publishing House in Moscow.

Australian publications make up about half the collection. There are many pamphlets and other works produced by the Communist Party of Australia, the Workers’ International Industrial Union, the Australian Movement against War and Fascism, the Australian-Soviet Friendship League, the Militant Minority Movement, the Socialist Labor Party of Australia, the Australian Labor Party, the Labor Council of New South Wales and various trade unions. Among the authors are J.D. Blake, H.E. Boote, John Burton, Wilfred Burchett, E.W. Campbell, R. Dixon, Len Fox, E.E. Judd, Rupert Lockwood, Lloyd Ross, L.L. Sharkey and Ernest Thornton.

The collection also contains writings by individuals and organisations that were strongly opposed to communism, such as Eric Butler, J.T. Lang, W.C. Wentworth, the Australian Constitutional League, the Institute of Public Affairs and the sane Democracy League.

The overseas publications include translations of writings and speeches by communist leaders, reports of congresses and conferences of communist parties in the Soviet Union, Britain, the United States, China, India and elsewhere, and pamphlets by communist and anti-communist intellectuals. Among those represented in the collection are Earl Browder, Nikolai Bukharin, Theodore Dreiser, William Gallacher, Nikita Kruschev, Lenin, Karl Marx, V.M. Molotov, Harry Pollitt, Stalin, Andrei Zhdanov and Grigorii Zinoviev.


The Ellis Collection has been kept together as a collection and arranged in 14 sequences. The works are catalogued individually; the call numbers having the prefix M.H.E.


Fletcher, B.H., Ellis, Malcolm Henry (1890-1969), Australian Dictionary of Biography Online

Moore, Andrew, The ‘historical expert’: M.H. Ellis and the historiography of the Cold War, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 31, April 2000, pp 91-109