Wilson, (James) Harold, Baron Wilson (of Rievaulx)

Wilson, (James) Harold, Baron Wilson (of Rievaulx)

biographical name

(born March 11, 1916, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, Eng.—died May 24, 1995, London) British politician and prime minister (1964–70, 1974–76). The son of an industrial chemist, he was educated at the University of Oxford, where he collaborated with William H. Beveridge on work that led to the latter's 1942 report. In World War II he was drafted into the civil service and produced a study of the mining industry. His book New Deal for Coal (1945) was the basis for the Labour Party's plan to nationalize the coal mines. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1945 and appointed president of the Board of Trade (1947–51). Elected leader of the Labour Party in 1963, he became prime minister in 1964. He widened the party's voting majority in 1966 but his popularity declined in the late 1960s, partly because of his assumption of direct responsibility for the economy shortly before the pound was devalued in 1967. In his second term, he confirmed Britain's membership in the European Economic Community (1975). He resigned unexpectedly in 1976 and was created a life peer in 1983.

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