John M. MacKenzie

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John MacDonald MacKenzie (born 2 October 1943) is a British historian of imperialism who pioneered the study of popular and cultural imperialism, as well as aspects of environmental history. He has also written about Scottish migration and the development of museums around the world.


He is the son of Alexander MacKenzie and Hannah (née Whitby) and was educated in Glasgow, Ndola (Zambia), Vancouver (British Columbia) and London. This cosmopolitan upbringing developed his interest in the history of the British Empire. He has travelled extensively, for research, conferences and pleasure, throughout Africa, Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and has taught in the Universities of British Columbia, Lancaster, Liverpool, Zimbabwe, and the Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.

Academic career[edit]

His principal post was at the University of Lancaster, where he held the chair of imperial history from 1991 to 2002. He was also successively Dean of Arts and Humanities and Dean of Education there. He holds honorary professorships of the Universities of Aberdeen, St. Andrews and Stirling, and is an honorary fellow of the University of Edinburgh. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

His research has stimulated a good deal of controversy. His critique of Edward Said's Orientalism, published in 1995, was badly received by post-Saidians and post-colonialists, although many of his early publications pioneered their later work. His insistence that popular imperialism was a feature of British culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came in for severe criticism from Bernard Porter in his The Absent-Minded Imperialists, although MacKenzie's followers have mounted a vigorous fight-back, not least in the many books (almost 100) in the Manchester University Press "Studies in Imperialism" series which he has edited since 1984.

He has given BBC radio talks, has appeared on television programmes relating to the British Empire, and has written for The Scotsman. He was an advisory curator for exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Scottish Academy and the Victoria and Albert Museum.[1]


Propaganda and Empire (1984)

The Railway Station: a Social History (with Jeffrey Richards) (1986)

The Empire of Nature (1988)

Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (1995)

Empires of Nature and the Nature of Empires (1997)

Inverness in Old Photographs (with Nigel Dalziel) (1998)

A Life in Three Centuries (2003)

The Scots in South Africa (2007)

Museums and Empire (2009)

Edited books[edit]

Imperialism and Popular Culture (1986)

Imperialism and the Natural World (1990)

Popular Imperialism and the Military (1992)

David Livingstone and the Victorian Encounter with Africa (1997)

European Impact and Pacific Influence (with Hermann J. Hiery) (1997)

The Victorian Vision (2001)

Peoples, Nations and Cultures (2003)

European Empires and the People (2011)

Scotland and the British Empire (with T.M. Devine)


  1. ^ "Prof John MacKenzie". People of Today. Debrett's. 

External links[edit]