Harold Wilson Biography

Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Read this biography to learn more about his profile, childhood, life and timeline.

Harold Wilson

Quick Facts

Gender: Male
Birthday: 11 March 1916
Died: 24 May 1995
Nationality: British
Sun Sign: Pisces
Spouse/Ex-: Mary Wilson, Baroness Wilson of Rievaulx
Children: Robin Wilson
Education: Jesus College
Awards: Officer of the Order of the British Empire, Honorary doctorate of Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Order of the Garter

A British Labor Party Politician and also a Prime Minister, Harold Wilson is considered the most recent Prime Minister to have served non-recurrent terms. As a young boy he was extremely interested in football and although, he came from a political background, he showed no signs of wanting to make a career in the same field. After a brief period of working as Industrial chemist, he became moderately active in politics and decided to change the field of his education, which eventually defined the course for the rest of his career. He soon became a lecturer at a prestigious college and even picked civil service during World War II. After donning a number of civil hats, Wilson was selected for the constituency and won his seat in the Labor Landslide. From President of the Board of Trade to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he had a come long way, making history at every step of the way and proposing a series of changes pertaining to social, legal and labor laws in the country. He was also the non-conformist Prime Minister to have brought upon a sequence of changes to the tax, housing, employment and the education system. Under Harold Wilson’s term, he expanded the British Welfare State and the country was vetoed into the European Community. If you would like to learn more about this personality, scroll further.

Childhood & Early Life

Harold Wilson was born on March 11, 1916, in Huddersfield, Yorkshire England. He was born into a political family as his father, James Herbert Wilson was active in the Liberal Party and then the Labor Party and his mother, was a school teacher.
He attended Royds Hall Grammar School, Wirral Grammar School for Boys and then later at Jesus College, Oxford, where he studied Modern History. He was also a supporter of his hometown football club, Huddersfield Town.
During his college days, he was slightly involved in Liberal Party politics, which influenced him to change his field of study and opt for Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
At the age of 21, he became one of the youngest Oxford University dons and began his career as lecturer in Economic History at New College and then a Research Fellow at University College in 1937.


At the outbreak of World War II, he was moved to civil service and became research assistant to William Beveridge. He later worked on issues related to unemployment and became a theoretician for the coal industry.
He was appointed as Director of Economics and Statistics at the Ministry of Fuel and Power from 1943-1944.
As the war drew to a close, he was elected to the constituency of Ormskirk on July 5, 1945, following which, he resigned from civil service.
In the 1945 General Election, he won his seat in the Labor Party landslide and was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works on July 5, 1945.
Wilson became the President of the Board of Trade on September 29, 1947; a post he held till October 25, 1951.
He was appointed as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer on December 14, 1955 and proved to be very effective in this role. He served this post till November 2, 1961.
He was later moved to the post of Shadow Foreign Secretary which he served from November 2, 1961 to February 14, 1963. After he assumed this role, he tried for Deputy Leadership, but was defeated by his opponent, George Brown.
After the Macmillan Government ran into trouble, Wilson was appointed as the Leader of the Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition on February 14, 1963. He held this post till April 5, 1976. As soon as he was appointed, he made his first speech as leader, which is probably the best-remembered speech till date.
In the 1964 General Election, the Labor Party won the majority, making Wilson the Prime Minister on October 16, 1964. In the first three years of his office, Wilson tried to tighten the fiscal stance and the latter part of his term was spent in eradicating rising unemployment and recession and the creation of a new department; the Department of Economic Affairs.
Wilson’s popularity declined and the Conservative Party, led by Edward Heath, won the 1970 General Election and who eventually led Britain to join the European Economic Community.
A minor dispute with trade unions failed to earn a majority for Edward Heath in the 1974 General election and Wilson’s Labor Party came back to power. He was appointed as Prime Minister for the second time on March 4, 1974.
In 1975, Wilson held a plebiscite on membership of the European Economic Community and had a brief dispute with the Cabinet. He was under attack from his own Labor Party and was faced with the prospect of getting a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
On April 5, 1976, he retired from office and was eventually replaced by James Callaghan.

Major Works

He was a statistician for the coal industry.
After he was elected as Prime Minister, he tried to modernize Britain by abolishing capital punishment, abortion, censorship and advocated for homosexuality and immigration. He also tried to tighten the fiscal stance.

Awards & Achievements

He was made the Prime Minister of United Kingdom twice; form 1964-1970 and from 1974-1976. In between, he was elected the Fellow of the Royal Society on June 12, 1968.
He was knighted in 1976.
He was titled the ‘Baron of Rievaulx’ in 1983.
He was also an honorary Fellow of Columbia Pacific University.

Personal Life & Legacy

He married Mary Baldwin in 1940. The couple had two sons.
Towards the end of his life, it is believed that Harold Wilson showed early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
He passed away on May 24, 1995.
Today, there are a number of statues, paintings and streets erected and named after him. He has also been referred to and even depicted in a number of television shows and documentaries by various artistes such as ‘The Queen’. ‘The Plot Against Harold Wilson’ and ‘The Lavender List’.

Citation Information

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Harold Wilson Biography


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Last Updated

June 04, 2019

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