Fraser MacDonald

Fraser MacDonald teaches historical geography at Edinburgh.

Diary: Balmorality

Fraser MacDonald, 16 November 2023

Ilove Balmoral​. Not the castle, though it’s fine if you like a bit of crenellated cream puffery. But I love the hills and woods of the Balmoral estate, the restrained charisma of the River Dee as it winds through the farmland of Crathie. The ‘scenery became prettier & prettier’, Queen Victoria wrote on her first trip to Balmoral, ‘& there is much agriculture...

Short Cuts: What does a degree mean?

Fraser MacDonald, 29 June 2023

It’snot uncommon for a student to come to my office to tell me they’re not happy with their exam mark. ‘Perhaps you just made a mistake?’ one suggested to me last year. From the student’s perspective, this is a reasonable concern. We are all fallible. My response is twofold: I look at the feedback on the essay and explain how the merits of the work correspond...

On Marshy Ground: Fen, Bog and Swamp

Fraser MacDonald, 15 June 2023

Peat-cutting​ on the island of North Uist usually begins in mid-April, but the exact timing varies. One old crofter used to say that you should only start cutting when the yellow flag iris comes into flower because by then the oils in the bog will have risen, but not everyone waits that long. It might mean cutting too late, and then the peats won’t dry. If they’re not ready by...

In Time of Schism

Fraser MacDonald, 16 March 2023

Thereis a small but interesting literature on the sociology of schism. The classic studies draw on observations of revolutionary Marxists and Scottish Presbyterians, archetypes of fissile conviction, and show that schism isn’t always a mark of decline. The energy of opposition can bring renewal: Presbyterians sometimes split to survive. In the Highlands rival congregations exist side...

Burning Questions: Home Fires

Fraser MacDonald, 5 January 2023

‘I’ll maybe put a match to the fire,’ my father would say. The tentative phrasing belied one of the great certainties of my childhood. The fire was lit most evenings, except in high summer, but in Aberdeen you were sometimes glad of it then too. Our 1960s decorative brick fireplace was the heart of the household. It was there for warmth, but it had a significance beyond the...

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences