Andrew McKenzie


It was the passion Andrew shared with his brothers for the Mackenzies’ history that first took him as a teenager to Ross and Cromarty, where the late Earl of Cromartie was kind enough to give them a tour of his family seat, Castle Leod. Lord Cromartie’s Highland History was the first account of this subject that he experienced. Shortly afterwards Andrew received a more rigorous academic training from Sir David Cannadine at Cambridge. It was he who first drew attention to the creation of a truly British titled and territorial class in the period 1780-1820, which formed the basis for Andrew’s degree dissertation: Francis Humberston-Mackenzie, the last Lord Seaforth, and his family’s integration into the British state system.

After Cambridge Andrew started work at Bonhams, the London auction house, where he became a specialist in Old Master Paintings, continuing to indulge his passion for particularly sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century history. After a spell at Phillip’s, between 1994 and 2000, he returned to Bonhams to head the Old Masters Department where he remains today. Over that period, he and his brother, Kevin, conducted research on their own direct ancestors in their spare time. The consequence of this was that Andrew became familiarised with the clan in a much wider sense than he had done for his university dissertation and it then struck him that what he had written about the identity of the last Lord Seaforth had great relevance to the clan in general from the seventeenth century (and to some extent earlier) onwards. While the traditional romantic view has seen the Mackenzies as royalists and Jacobites inevitably doomed to decline in the face of modernity, his findings inspired him to re-write this history showing how these Highlanders had a very cosmopolitan and Anglophile outlook and the powerful clan system itself played an important part in the way in which they adapted to the modern world. This interest then took him in collaboration with Kevin further back in time to look at the very origins of the clan and clanship, examining in detail the longstanding controversy dating back to the Celtic historian, W.F. Skene’s revision in the nineteenth century and regarding which they came to unearth some particularly important new research.

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Using largely unpublished source material, Andrew McKenzie's account of this family's dramatic history over the course of 700 years fundamentally overturns the traditional perception of the Highlander. Far from being an outmoded remnant of the Dark Ages, the clan system is shown to be a remarkably resilient and adaptable phenomenon. It thus allowed one family to make a significant contribution to many of those values that laid the foundations of the modern world.

'An impressive integration of family with national history'

'A major piece of scholarly research and writing, which is not only a revisionist account of a single clan and family, but is also a major contribution to the history of Scotland, of Britain and indeed of the British Empire.'