Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • SAUL DUBOW (a1)

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.

Corresponding author
Department of History, University of Sussex, Brighton, Sussex BN1
Hide All

This paper was written for a conference organized by Sarah Stockwell and Larry Butler on the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘wind of change’ address, held at the University of East Anglia, March 2010. Papers presented by Simon Ball, Stephen Howe, Joanna Lewis, Roger Louis, and Stuart Ward were especially illuminating for my purposes. I have since had very helpful comments from Hermann Giliomee, Alex Mouton, Rob Skinner, Andrew Thompson, Richard Whiting, and the anonymous reviewers for the Historical Journal.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

S. J. Ball , ‘Banquo's ghost: Lord Salisbury, Harold Macmillan, and the high politics of decolonization, 1957–1963’, Twentieth-Century British History, 16 (2005), pp. 74102

B. Phiri , ‘The Capricorn Africa Society revisited: the impact of liberalism in Zambia's colonial history, 1949–1963’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 24 (1991), pp. 6583

C. Baker , ‘Macmillan's “wind of change” tour, 1960’, South African Historical Journal, 38 (1988), pp. 171–82

C. Gurney , ‘“A great cause”: the origins of the anti-apartheid movement, June 1959–March 1960’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 26 (2000), pp. 123–44

F. Myers , ‘Harold Macmillan's “winds of change” speech: a case study in the rhetoric of policy change’, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 3 (2000), pp. 555–75

H. F. Verwoerd , ‘A method for the experimental production of emotions’, American Journal of Psychology, 37 (1926), pp. 357–71

R. B. Miller , ‘Science and society in the early career of H. F. Verwoerd’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 19 (1993), pp. 634–61

South Africa: from Sharpeville to the Congo’, Round Table, 50 (1960), pp. 425–30

N. M. Stultz and J. Butler , ‘The South African general election of 1961’, Political Science Quarterly, 78 (1963), pp. 107–8

The commonwealth: a South African view’, Round Table, 50 (1960), pp. 365–70

South Africa departs’, Round Table, 51 (1961), pp. 237–42

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 35
Total number of PDF views: 97 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 408 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.