Just over fifty years ago, Prime Minister Macmillan made an extensive tour of Africa, culminating in his ‘wind of change’ speech in Cape Town, 1960. This article traces Macmillan's progress through Africa with particular emphasis on his intervention in South African politics. It offers a novel reading of the ‘wind of change’ speech, arguing that the message was far more conciliatory with respect to white South African interests than is usually assumed. Pragmatism rather than principle was always the prime consideration. Far from being cowed by Macmillan's oratory or his message, Verwoerd stood up to Macmillan and, at least in the eyes of his supporters, gave as good as he got. The shock of the ‘wind of change’ speech was more evident in Britain and in British settler regions of Africa than in South Africa. Macmillan's advisers had an inflated view of the import of the speech and in many ways misread Verwoerd's brand of Afrikaner nationalism. One of the consequences of the speech was to embolden Verwoerd politically, and to prepare him for the declaration of republican status in 1961 and departure from the commonwealth.
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