Macmillan was Conservative prime minister of Britain from 1957 to 1963, and presided over a time of prosperity and the easing of Cold War tensions.
Harold Macmillan was born in London on 10 February 1894. His grandfather had founded Macmillan Publishers. Macmillan was educated at Oxford University and served with distinction in World War One. He became Conservative member of parliament for Stockton-on-Tees in 1924, losing his seat in 1929 but regaining it in 1931. His advocacy of social reform and his support for Winston Churchill's anti-appeasement stance brought him few rewards in the 1930s. With the outbreak of war his political fortunes changed. In 1942 - 1945, he was minister resident at the allied headquarters in the Mediterranean, where he became a friend of General (later President) Dwight Eisenhower. Macmillan was transformed from an awkward and aloof maverick into a polished and self-confident executive. He lost his seat in 1945 but soon returned to parliament as MP for Bromley.
Between 1951 - 1954 Macmillan served as minister of housing, and then became, in quick succession, minister of defence, foreign secretary and chancellor of the exchequer. Despite bearing some responsibility for the Suez debacle of 1956, Macmillan proved to be a beneficiary of the crisis, which forced the resignation of the prime minister, Anthony Eden in January 1957. Macmillan took his place. He succeeded in restoring the fortunes of the Conservative party after Suez, and increased the government's parliamentary majority in the 1959 general election. He also improved relations between Britain and the USA, which had been badly compromised by the intervention in Egypt.
Macmillan's second term was beset with crises. Britain's application for membership of the European Economic Community split the Conservative party, and was eventually vetoed by France. There were also economic difficulties. In 1962, the government's unpopularity led Macmillan to abruptly dismiss six cabinet members, an event which became known as the 'night of the long knives'. His subsequent inept handling of the scandals surrounding minister John Profumo in 1963 proved fatal, and he resigned in October 1963. His patrician, Edwardian style increasingly seemed to sit awkwardly with a more modern form of politics, represented by Labour under Harold Wilson, who came to power the following year.
Macmillan became chairman of his family's publishing firm and died on 29 December 1986.
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