Alexander Mackie: An Academic Life

Geoff Sherington

Regular price $29.95 Sale

Format: hardback
219 pages
ISBN: 9781742104669
Publication: 10 Dec 2019

Publisher: The University of Sydney

Read online: Open access

From the late nineteenth century, academic disciplines emerged in universities, marking boundaries of knowledge, teaching and research. Education became a transnational academic discipline, developing across Britain, Europe and North America and providing a foundation for the teaching profession.

Educated in Edinburgh, Alexander Mackie was influenced by German idealist philosophy and by progressive views of teaching drawn from the United States. He carried his academic values across the Empire when he was appointed the inaugural principal of Sydney Teachers’ College and professor of education at the University of Sydney.

For almost four decades, Mackie struggled to sustain education as an academic discipline and teaching as an autonomous profession. Failing health hindered his efforts, but many of his values were passed on to his children. Grounded in their father’s educational philosophy, Mackie’s daughter, Margaret, and son, John, became academics, engaging with the transnational postwar worlds of inquiry and research.

Geoff Sherington is a professor in history of education at the University of Sydney.


Part one: the young academic
The city of Edinburgh
Democratic intellect and middle-class meritocracy
Teaching as a profession
Becoming a teacher
The academic world
Studying at Edinburgh University
Becoming an academic
Networks of Empire

Part two: principal and professor
Contexts for change
Introducing the new college principal
Installing the college principal
Australia’s first professor of education
A shining light in the Empire
Keeping the college alive and active
Towards progressivism in teacher education
The public intellectual
Australian education and American philanthropy
Towards the end
Beyond the Mackie era

Part three: an academic family
A bachelor’s life
The marriage of Alec and Annie
Bringing up Margaret and John
Drumgrain School
Margaret and Abbotsleigh
John and Knox Grammar School
The University of Sydney
Margaret’s postwar career
John’s transnational academic career


Format: hardback
Size: 217 × 184 × 18 mm
219 pages
b&w illustrations
Copyright: © 2019
ISBN: 9781742104669
Publication: 10 Dec 2019