Harold Macmillan

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The Right Hon. Harold Macmillan

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Period in Office: 11 January 195719 October 1963
PM Predecessor: Anthony Eden
PM Successor: The Earl of Home
Date of Birth: 10 February 1894
Place of Birth: Brixton
Political Party: Conservative
Retirement honour: Order of Merit
Earldom of Stockton

The Right Honourable Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton and Viscount Macmillan of Ovenden, OM, PC, (10 February 1894 - 29 December 1986), nicknamed "Supermac" and "Mac the Knife", was a British Conservative politician and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963.


Early life

Macmillan was born in Brixton. He was educated at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford. He served with distinction in WW I, being wounded on three occasions. Elected to the House of Commons in 1924 for Stockton-on-Tees, he lost his seat in 1929 only to return in 1931. In the 1930s he was stuck on the backbenches, his leftish ideas and sharp criticism of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain served to isolate him. In World War II he was part of the wartime coalition government, he worked with the Ministry of Supply before being sent to North Africa in 1942 as British government representative to the Allies in the Mediterranean.

He returned to England post-war and after the massive electoral defeat of 1945, at which he lost his own seat. He soon returned to Parliament in a November 1945 by-election for Bromley. When the Conservatives regained power in 1951 he was minister of housing (October 1951) then minister of defence (October 1954) under Winston Churchill and foreign secretary (April-December 1955) and chancellor of the exchequer (1955-1957) under Anthony Eden. When Eden resigned in January 1957 he was succeeded by Macmillan on the 10th (despite many expecting Rab Butler to succeed instead) and Macmillan also became leader of the Conservative Party (22nd).


Macmillan brought the monetary concerns of the exchequer into office - the economy was his prime concern. However his approach to the economy was to seek high employment, whereas his treasury ministers argued that to support sterling required strict controls on money and hence a rise in unemployment. Their advice was rejected and in January 1958 all the Treasury ministers resigned. Macmillan brushed aside this incident as "a little local difficulty". Macmillan supported the creation of the National Incomes Commission as a means to institute controls on income as part of his growth without inflation policy, a further series of subtle indicators and controls were also introduced during his premiership.

Harold MacMillan

Macmillan also took close control of foreign policy. He worked to narrow the rift post-Suez with the U.S., where his wartime friendship with Dwight D. Eisenhower was useful, and the two had a pleasant conference in Bermuda as early as March 1957. The better relationship remained after the ascent of John F. Kennedy. Macmillan also saw the value of a rapproachment with Europe and sought belated entry to the European Economic Community (EEC) as well as exploring the possibility of a European Free Trade Area (EFTA). In terms of the Empire Macmillan continued the divestment of the colonies, his "wind of change" speech (February 1960) indicating his policy. Ghana and Malaya were granted independence in 1957, Nigeria in 1960 and Kenya in 1963. However in the Middle East Macmillan ensured Britain remained a force - intervening over Iraq in 1958 and 1960 as well as becoming involved in Oman.

He led the Conservatives to victory in the October 1959 general election, increasing his party's majority from 67 to 107 seats. The election campaign had been based on the economic improvements achieved, the slogan "Life's Better Under the Conservatives" was matched by Macmillan's own remark, "most of our people have never had it so good" usually paraphrased as "You've never had it so good." The actual growth rate, compared to the rest of Europe, was weak and marked a relative decline distorted by high defence expenditure.

Macmillan had a reputation for being unflappable in public. For example, on September 29, 1960, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev twice interrupted a speech by Macmillan at the United Nations by shouting out and pounding his desk. Macmillan famously replied: "I should like that to be translated if he wants to say anything."

Following the technical failures of a British independent nuclear deterrent with the Blue Streak and the Blue Steel projects, Macmillan negotiated the supply of American Polaris missiles under the Nassau agreement in December 1962. Previously he had agreed to base sixty Thor missiles in Britain under joint control, and since late 1957 the American McMahon Act had been eased to allow Britain more access to nuclear technology. These negotiations were the basis for Peter Cook's satire of Macmillan in Beyond the Fringe.

Macmillan was a major force in the successful negotiations leading to Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union signing the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1962. His previous attempt to create an agreement at the May 1960 summit in Paris had collapsed due to the Gary Powers affair.

Britain's application to join the EEC was vetoed by Charles de Gaulle (29 January 1963), in part due to his fear that "the end would be a colossal Atlantic Community dependent on America" and in part in anger at the Anglo-American nuclear deal.

Britain's balance of payments problems led to the imposition of a wage freeze in 1961. This caused the government to lose popularity and led to a series of by-election defeats. He organised a major Cabinet change in July 1962 but he continued to lose support from within his party. During this time he was quoted, "Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his friends for his life" suggesting the difficulty of his decisions. He was also embarrassed by the Profumo Affair of 1963. Following ill health and surgery he resigned on 18 October 1963. He was succeeded by Alec Douglas-Home, the foreign secretary. This proved controversial as it was alleged that Macmillan had pulled strings and utilised the party's grandees, nicknamed "The Magic Circle", to ensure that Butler was not chosen as his successor.


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Arms of Harold Macmillan

Macmillan initially refused a peerage and retired from politics in September 1964. He did, however, accept the distinction of the Order of Merit from The Queen. After retiring, he took up the chairmanship of his family's publishing house Macmillan Publishers. Over the next twenty years he made the occasional intervention. Following Margaret Thatcher's election as leader of the Conservative Party, Macmillan was found to be intervening more often as the record of his premiership came under attack from the monetarists in the party. In one of his more memorable contributions he likened Margaret Thatcher's policy of privatisation to "selling the family silver". In 1984 he finally accepted a peerage and was created Earl of Stockton and Viscount Macmillan of Ovenden. He died at Birch Grove in Sussex in 1986 at the age of 92 years and 322 days - the greatest age attained by any British Prime Minister until it was surpassed by James Callaghan on 14 February 2005.

Titles from birth to death

External link


January 1957 - October 1959


  • March 1957 - Lord Home succeeds Lord Salisbury as Lord President, remaining also Commonwealth Relations Secretary.
  • September 1957 - Lord Hailsham succeeds Lord Home as Lord President, Home remaining Commonwealth Relations Secretary. Geoffrey Lloyd succeeds Hailsham as Minister of Education. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Reginald Maudling, enters the Cabinet.
  • January 1958 - Derick Heathcoat Amory succeeds Peter Thorneycroft as Chancellor of the Exchequer. John Hare succeeds Amory as Minister of Agriculture.

October 1959 - July 1960

July 1960 - October 1961

October 1961 - July 1962

July 1962 - October 1963

In a radical reshuffle dubbed "The Night of the Long Knives", Macmilland sacked a third of his Cabinet and instituted many other changes.

Preceded by:
Sir Archibald Sinclair
Secretary of State for Air
Succeeded by:
The Viscount Stansgate
Preceded by:
Sir Anthony Eden
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by:
Selwyn Lloyd
Preceded by:
Rab Butler
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by:
Peter Thorneycroft

Template:Succession box two to two Template:End box

Preceded by:
New Creation
Earl of Stockton
Succeeded by:
Alexander Macmillan

Template:End boxde:Harold Macmillan fr:Harold Macmillan ja:ハロルド・マクミラン zh:麥美倫


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