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Modern Britain 1688-Present

This guide is intended to help people doing research in the history of Great Britain since 1688.

Harold Macmillan

Macmillan was the Conservative Party Prime Minister from January 1957 until mid-October 1963. The son of a British publisher (that Macmillan) and an American mother, he attended Oxford University. During World War One he served with distinction as an officer of the Grenadier Guards was wounded several times. 

First elected to Parliament in 1924, Macmillan advocated a middle way of Keynesian economics and was a trenchant critic of his fellow Tories' policies of appeasement in the period before World War II. He served in the government of Winston Churchill during the war in various positions until the defeat of Churchill's Conservatives in 1945. With the Tories return to power in 1951, Macmillan served fist as Housing and the Defence Minister in the Churchill cabinets.  In 1955 he was Foreign Secretary in Anthony Eden's government until he became the Chancellor of the Exchequer that same year.

He remained in that post until January 1957 when he succeeded Eden as Prime Minister. He built on a close personal relationship with President Eisenhower, which dated back to World War Two, to establish even closer links with the United States.  Macmillan was the first Western leader to visit the Soviet Union after World War Two, and was a major supporter of decolonization.  It is during his government that many British possessions in Africa and Asia were granted independence.   Macmillan's government was rocked by a series of scandals, including the famous Profumo affair.

Macmillan Cabinet Papers database

Books on Macmillan