Malcolm MacDonald

Portrait of Malcolm   MacDonald

Malcolm John MacDonald (17 August 1901, Lossiemouth, Scotland – 11 January 1981, Maidstone, Kent, England) was a British politician and "unconventional" diplomat, an ornithologist and art collector (Chinese ceramics, in particular), a promoter of 'cultural decolonisation' who published in 1958 what is considered as one of the first English-language, extensively photographed Guide of Angkor.

In 1938, as he was a member (Labour) of the Chamberlain cabinet, his report on Palestine, so-called the MacDonald White Paper, was criticized as it recommended the halt of Jewish immigration to Palestine at a time when Nazi antisemitic persecutions were raging. Later on, MacDonald was appointed High Commissioner to Canada and, after retiring from politics, Governor-General of British territories in Southeast Asia from 1946 to 1948, and then Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia covering regional affairs. He served as Chancellor of the University of Malaya from 1949 to 1961, and as High Commissioner to India from 1955 to 1960. He served as co-chairman of the Laos Conference from 1961 to 1962, and finally as Governor-General of Kenya between 1963 and 1964.

His collection of some 500 ancient Chinese ceramics is today split between the Oriental Museum of Durham University, the University of Malaya Museum of Asian Art in Kuala Lumpur and the National University of Singapore Museum in Singapore.

The Durham University Library holds most of MacDonald's correspondence (including letters to and from HM King Norodom Sihanouk) and personal papers.

In 2018, the Durham University Museum published his essay (Alexander Nicholas Shaw ed.), The Pleasures and Pains of Collecting, in which he wrote: ‘I like Beauty, I love Beauty, I worship Beauty in all its earthly forms’.