Norman Ian MacKenzie

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Norman Ian MacKenzie
Born 18 August 1921
Deptford, London
Died 18 June 2013(2013-06-18) (aged 91)
Lewes, England
Occupation Author, Journalist, Educationalist
Nationality British
Genre Biographies
Subject Sociology

Norman Ian MacKenzie (18 August 1921 – 16 June 2013) was a British writer, journalist and educationalist who helped set up the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1957 and the Open University (OU) in the late 1960s.[1]

Early years[edit]

MacKenzie was born in Deptford, in south east London in 1921, the son of a door-to-door salesman. He attended The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School and won a scholarship to study government at the London School of Economics (LSE), graduating with a first-class honours degree. It was whilst a student that he joined the Independent Labour Party and briefly the British Communist Party, but quickly became dismayed at their eagerness to place members into the armed Forces and public services.

In 1940, MacKenzie was trained in guerrilla warfare at Osterley Park, west London. He was a member of group that then went to Sussex and were to perform behind-the-lines sabotage and guerrilla activity in the event of a German invasion. He was also a member of the Political Warfare Executive that broadcast propaganda via radio to Germany.[2]


Invalided out of the RAF in 1943 with a stomach ulcer, MacKenzie spent the next 19 years until 1962 as an assistant editor with the New Statesman magazine, specialising in sociology and communism.[3] MacKenzie made frequent trips behind the Iron Curtain throughout the 1950s and worked for MI6 gathering intelligence.

MacKenzie worked on extricating dissidents out of eastern Europe. In 1956, whilst in Bulgaria he got a tip off that Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev was about to denounce Stalin but his report was not believed until the speech was actually given.

He was twice unsuccessful at elections as the Labour candidate for Hemel Hempstead in 1951 and 1956.

In 1962, Asa Briggs recruited him to teach sociology at the University of Sussex. Whilst there he set up the Centre for Educational Technology in 1967. In the mid-1960s he worked with Richmond Postgate of the BBC and the then education minister Jennie Lee to work on ideas about getting more people into university. He subsequently became a member of a planning committee and council that created Open University. MacKenzie remained a council member until 1976. He retired from teaching at the University of Sussex in 1983.[4]


MacKenzie wrote a number of books, with his first wife, Jeanne Sampson, including well received biographies of H.G. Wells (1973) and Charles Dickens (1979) and he edited the diaries of Beatrice Webb (1982–85). He also wrote about socialism and, under the pseudonym of Anthony Forrest, several novels set during the Napoleonic wars.

Later life[edit]

Following the death of his first wife Jeanne of cancer in 1986, MacKenzie married Gillian Ford in 1988 and lived in Lewes. He was a fine painter of watercolour landscapes. He was survived by Gillian, a daughter from his first marriage and two grandchildren.


  1. ^ Hugh Purcell (24 June 2013). "Norman MacKenzie obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Norman MacKenzie". The Daily Telegraph. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Adrian Smith (28 June 2013). "Norman Mackenzie: Editor, teacher, writer . . . spy?". New Statesman. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Obituary: Norman Mackenzie". University of Sussex. 26 June 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.