Harold Macmillan was the British Conservative Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963. A man of civilized, humane conceptions of the purposes of government, he was also a figure of paradox. Beneath the studied Edwardian manner was a subtle and acute intelligence. His reputation for unflappability concealed a temperament of surprising sensitivity. The reassuring father figure who seemed a guarantee of continuity showed a willingness to change direction matched by few of his predecessors. In the 1930s he was right when his contemporaries were wrong; in the 1950s on his accession to the premiership, he was able to restore unity, morale, and self-respect to his party and his country. In the 1960s, he put Britain on a course to a new role within Europe, withdrew from Empire, and was in part responsible for the Test Ban Treaty which marked the beginnings of a detente between the West and Soviet Russia. Personified as "Supermac" in popular cartoons, he was an early master of the soundbite, and his phrasemaking still occupies any dictionary of quotations"a little local difficulty" (on the resignation of his entire Treasury team); "a wind of change" (decolonization of Africa); and "selling off the family silver" (his 1984 anti-Thatcherite maiden speech in the House of Lords).
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