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Harold Macmillan

Maurice Harold Macmillan (February 10, 1894 - December 29, 1986) was a British Conservative politician and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963.

Maurice Harold Macmillan was born in London. 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 Baldwin and Chamberlain served to isolate him. In WW 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 when the Conservatives regained power in 1951 he was minister of housing (October 1951) then minister of defense (October 1954) under Winston Churchill and foreign secretary (April-December 1955) and chancellor of the exchequer (1955-57) under Anthony Eden. When Eden resigned in January 1957 he was succeeded by Macmillan on the 10th 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, when 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 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 sublte indicators and controls were also introduced during his premiership.

Macmillan also took close control of foreign policy, he worked to narrow the rift post-Suez with the U.S., where he wartime friendship with 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 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.

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 missile 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.

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 created 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 (January 29, 1963), in part due to his fear that "the end would be a colossal Atlantic Community dependent on America" and in part to 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. He was also embarrassed by the Profumo Affair of June 1963. Following ill health and surgery he resigned on October 18, 1963. He was succeeded by Alec Douglas-Home, the foreign secretary.

Macmillan refused a peerage and retired from politics in September 1964. He later accepted a peerage and was created Earl of Stockton in 1984. He died at Birch Grove in Sussex in 1986 at the age of 92.



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