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‘MACMILLAN, VERWOERD, AND THE 1960 ‘WIND OF CHANGE’ SPEECH*

  • SAUL DUBOW (a1)
Abstract
ABSTRACT

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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Department of History, University of Sussex, Brighton, Sussex BN1 9RHs.dubow@sussex.ac.uk
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*

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.

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1 Sampson A., Mandela: the authorised biography (London, 2000), p. 129.

2 Stanley Baldwin, in 1934, spoke of ‘a wind of nationalism and freedom blowing round the world’ and Nehru, in 1947, referred to ‘strong winds’ ‘blowing all over Asia’. Safire's political dictionary (Oxford, 2008), p. 814.

3 Cape Times, 23 Oct. 1957.

4 Hendrik Verwoerd, academic, newspaper editor, and politician (1901–66), became prime minister of South Africa in 1958, having previously served as minister of native affairs. He elevated apartheid into a full-fledged philosophy in 1959 as he laid out a strategy for giving ‘self-government’ to newly created ethnic ‘homelands’.

5 Thorpe D. R., Supermac: the life of Harold Macmillan (London, 2010), pp. 453, 457–8; The National Archives (TNA), CAB 129/101, dispatch by John Maud, 18 Feb. 1960, in ‘Prime minister's African tour January–February’, p. 159.

6 Sampson A., Macmillan: a study in ambiguity (London, 1967), p. 139.

7 Ibid., p. 181; Goldsworthy D., ‘Conservatives and decolonization: a note on the interpretation by Dan Horowitz’, African Affairs, 69 (1970), pp. 278–81, at p. 280; Ball S. J., ‘Banquo's ghost: Lord Salisbury, Harold Macmillan, and the high politics of decolonization, 1957–1963’, Twentieth-Century British History, 16 (2005), pp. 74102.

8 Ovendale R., ‘Macmillan and the wind of change in Africa, 1957–1960’, Historical Journal, 38 (1995), pp. 455–77, at pp. 457, 471; Goldsworthy, ‘Conservatives and decolonization’, p. 279.

9 Horne A., Macmillan, ii: 1957–1986 (Basingstoke, 1989), pp. 184–5.

10 Ovendale, ‘Macmillan and the wind of change in Africa’, p. 472. See also Phiri B., ‘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.

11 Baker C., ‘Macmillan's “wind of change” tour, 1960’, South African Historical Journal, 38 (1988), pp. 171–82, at p. 172; Hyam R., Britain's declining empire: the road to decolonisation, 1918–1968 (Cambridge, 2006), p. 257.

12 Baker, 'Macmillan's “Wind of Change” tour', p. 175.

13 Gurney C., ‘“A great cause”: the origins of the anti-apartheid movement, June 1959–March 1960’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 26 (2000), pp. 123–44, at p. 136.

14 Thorpe, Supermac, pp. 490–1; Giauque J. G., Grand designs and visions of unity: the Atlantic powers and the reorganization of Western Europe, 1955–1963 (Charlotte, NC, 2002), p. 111.

15 Macmillan H., Pointing the way, 1959–1961 (London, 1972), p. 124.

16 Hunt D., On the spot: an ambassador remembers (London, 1975), p. 102; TNA, CAB 129/101, ‘Prime minister's African tour’, p. 29.

17 Macmillan, Pointing the way, p. 124; Illustrated London News, 20 Feb. 1960; Sampson, Macmillan, pp. 183–4; Horne, Macmillan, p. 189; Guardian, 15 Jan. 1960.

18 Guardian, 23 Jan. 1960.

19 Illustrated London News, 6 Feb. 1960 and 20 Feb. 1960; Die Transvaler, 21 Jan. 1960.

20 TNA, CAB 195/18, cabinet secretary notebooks, extract from cabinet meeting, 16 Feb. 1960. My thanks to Tessa Stirling for extracts from cabinet minutes and other material in TNA.

21 Myers F., ‘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, at pp. 562–3.

22 Sampson, Macmillan, p. 185.

23 Ibid., p. 185; Eisenberg D., ‘The Commonwealth Conference’, Africa South, 4 (1960), p. 58.

24 Hunt, On the spot, p. 113; Guardian, 31 Jan. 1960; TNA, CAB 129/101, ‘Prime minister's African tour’, p. 132.

25 Macmillan, Pointing the way, pp. 150–1.

26 Cape Times, 2 Feb. 1960.

27 Macmillan, Pointing the way, p. 153.

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

29 Cape Times, 3 Feb. 1960.

30 Cited in Cape Times, 3 Feb. 1960; also Sampson, Macmillan, p. 185.

31 Guardian, 3 Feb. 1960.

32 Hunt, On the spot, p. 112; ‘Letter from DWS Hunt (CRO) to Sir A. Clutterbuck giving his personal impressions’ of Macmillan's Cape Town speech, 8 Feb. 1960, doc. 444, in R. Hyam and W. R. Louis, eds., The Conservative government and the end of empire, 1957–1964, Part II Series A Vol. 4 (London, 2000), p. 397; TNA, PREM 11/3071, D. Nokwe (ANC secretary-general) to Macmillan, 25 Jan. 1960, and Peter Brown (chair Liberal party) to Macmillan, 26 Jan. 1960.

33 TNA, CAB 129/101, ‘Prime minister's Africa tour’, pp. 129, 150–2; TNA, PREM 11/3071, J. B. Johnston to high commissioner, 23 Jan. 1960, Macmillan to D. Nokwe, 4 Feb. 1960; Maud to Bligh, 31 Jan. 1960.

34 Sampson, Mandela, p. 129.

35 TNA, PREM 11/3073, ‘South Africa fortnightly summary, 27th January to 9th February, 1960’, confidential savingram no. 26 from UK high commission, South Africa, to Commonwealth Relations Office, 11 Feb. 1960, and telegram no. 89, ‘Reactions to prime minister's visit’ (confidential) 16 Feb. 1960; ‘Letter from DWS Hunt Clutterbuck’, doc. 444, in Hyam and Louis, eds., The Conservative government, pp. 397–8.

36 Times, ‘Lord Redcliffe-Maud’ (obituary), 5 Feb. 1982.

37 Hyam, Britain 's declining empire, p. 258. The senior nationalist leader Paul Sauer regarded Maud as a constant source of tension during his time as British high commissioner and found him antagonistic towards Afrikaners. See de Villiers Dirk en Johanna, Paul Sauer (Cape Town, 1977), pp. 128–9. Also Bellwood W. A., South African backdrop (Cape Town, 1969), p. 162. I am grateful to Alex Mouton and David Scher for these sources.

38 TNA, PREM 11/3073, ‘Note for the record’, by Tim Bligh, 15 Dec. 1959.

39 Sampson, Mandela, p. 128.

40 Sampson, Macmillan, p. 186; Baker, ‘Macmillan's “wind of change” tour’, pp. 177–9; Hunt, On the spot, p. 116; Oxford dictionary of national biography, entries on Brook, Hunt, Maud; TNA, PREM 11/3073, Home to Macmillan, 9 Dec. 1959.

41 Hyam, Britain 's declining empire, p. 249.

43 Illustrated London News, 2 Feb. 1960.

44 Macmillan's use of his own family ancestry had another purpose: while counting himself as a Scot, he noted that his mother was American, and he likened the puritan influence on the United States to South Africa. He was evidently sending out a message, to an American audience, that he was personally keen to cultivate the ‘special relationship’.

45 Edward Pearce, ‘Last echo of empire’ obituary, Julian Amery, Guardian, 4 Sept. 1996; Ball, ‘Banquo's ghost’.

46 TNA, PREM 11/3073, Brook to Macmillan, 3 Mar. 1960. Lady Churchill disagreed with Winston but thought it ‘impolitic’ to support Brook because ‘Winston always thinks of me as a crypto-Socialist.’

47 This did not prevent Selwyn Lloyd calling his black Labrador ‘Sambo’. See Thorpe, Supermac, p. 525.

48 TNA, PREM 11/3073, Brook to Macmillan, 3 Mar. 1960.

49 Ball, ‘Banquo's ghost’, pp. 84, 85.

50 S. J. Ball, ‘Macmillan, the second world war and the empire’, in R. Aldous and S. Lee, eds., Harold Macmillan: aspects of a political life (Basingstoke, 1999), p. 174.

51 TNA, PREM 11/3073, Brook to Macmillan, 3 Mar. 1960.

52 Evans H., Downing Street diary: the Macmillan years, 1957–1963 (London, 1981), p. 102. Macmillan added: ‘Of course, they would have to accept the really talented African’, leaving Evans to wonder how the demand for political rights by the ‘talented African’ would be met.

53 TNA, CAB 195/18, extract from cabinet secretary notebooks from cabinet meeting on 16 Feb. 1960.

54 Verwoerd's ultra-loyal private secretary, Fred Barnard, was enraged by Macmillan's failure to supply his boss with an advance copy and regarded the speech as an insult. ‘The speech occupied nearly ten pages; ten pages of silken, smooth-tongued, cold and calculated insults of courteously phrased, remorseless condemnation of the country whose guest he was.’ Barnard F., Thirteen years with Verwoerd (Johannesburg, 1967), pp. 62, 63.

55 Cape Times, 4 Feb. 1960.

56 Ibid., letter to the editor.

57 Die Burger, 4 Feb. 1960.

58 De Villiers, Paul Sauer, p. 128.

59 Brand Fourie, ‘Buitelandse sake onder Dr Verwoerd’, in W. J. Verwoerd, ed., Verwoerd: Só onthou ons hom (Pretoria, 2001), p. 130; also C. Boshoff, ‘Mentor’, in ibid., p. 201.

60 TNA, PREM 11/3073, ‘South Africa fortnightly summary, 27th January to 9th February, 1960’, confidential savingram no. 26 from UK high commission, South Africa, to Commonwealth Relations Office, 11 Feb. 1960, p. 2.

61 D. M. Scher, ‘1948–1966’, in B. J. Liebenberg and S. B. Spies, eds., South Africa in the twentieth century (Pretoria, 1993), pp. 367–8; Kenney H., Architect of apartheid: H. F .Verwoerd – an appraisal (Johannesburg, 1980), p. 179; De Villiers, Sauer, p. 128.

62 Contact, 20 Feb. 1960. The editor of Contact sent a telegram to Macmillan immediately after the delivery of his speech, calling it ‘historic’ and congratulating him for speaking ‘for the human race and for all the best in British and South African traditions and history’.

63 Cape Times, 4 Feb. 1960; see also Star, 3 Feb. 1960.

64 Rand Daily Mail, 4 Feb. 1960.

65 Contact, 20 Feb. 1960, ‘Justus’.

66 Peter Brown, ‘Apartheid isolated’, Contact, 5 Mar. 1960. TNA, CAB 134/1555, confidential telegram no. 89 from Commonwealth Relations Office to the Prime Minister's Office, 16 Feb. 1960, made the point that the United Party line was ‘to welcome speech warmly as rebuff for nationalists while ignoring its implications for themselves’.

67 Guardian, 29 Jan. 1960; Star, 3 Feb. 1960. ANC leaders Duma Nokwe and Alfred Nzo issued a circular instructing supporters to organize ten-strong groups of women protesters bearing placards at events where Macmillan was likely to appear. Suggested slogans included ‘We have never had it so bad’ and ‘Meet our leaders too and hear our side.’ Circular signed by Duma Nokwe and Alfred Nzo in TNA, PREM, 11/3071.

68 Sampson, Mandela, p. 129; At Westminster Hall on 11 July 1996, Mandela said: ‘We are in the Houses in which Harold Macmillan worked – he who spoke in our own Houses of Parliament in Cape Town in 1960, shortly before the infamous Sharpeville Massacre, and warned a stubborn and race-blinded white oligarchy in our country that “the wind of change is blowing through this continent”.’ www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mandela/1996/sp960711.html.

69 Contact, 20 Feb. 1960; Benson Mary, South Africa: the struggle for a birthright (Harmondsworth, 1966), p. 220; TNA, PREM 11/3071, circular signed by Nokwe and Nzo.

70 TNA, PREM 11/3073, Maud to Macmillan, 3 Feb. 1960.

71 Hunt, On the spot, pp. 117–18; cf. ‘Letter from DWS Hunt (CRO) to Sir A Clutterbuck’, in Hyam and Louis, eds., The Conservative government, p. 396.

72 Star, 4 Feb. 1960.

73 Worsthorne P., Tricks of memory: an autobiography (London, 1993), p. 195. Worsthorne – life-long conservative and empire sympathizer – was appalled at the professional irresponsibility of his colleagues for failing to engage with Afrikaner journalists. He was left with ‘egg on my face’ as the only foreign reporter to have underplayed the sensational character of the speech. In a personal interview with a ‘serene’ Verwoerd the day after the speech, he was advised to inform Macmillan that the wind of change was blowing through Britain rather than Africa.

74 Cape Times, 4 Feb. 1960.

75 Die Burger, 4 Feb. 1960. Neither Piet Cillé, editor of Die Burger, nor Schalk Pienaar, its parliamentary correspondent, were favourably disposed to Verwoerd and both showed a considerable measure of journalistic independence. The political events of 1960 increased their doubts about the direction of Verwoerdian apartheid. See e.g. Mouton Alex, Voorlooper: die lewe van Schalk Pienaar (Cape Town, 2002), pp. 37–9, 40–1.

76 TNA, PREM 11/3073, confidential telegram 89, ‘Reactions to prime minister's visit’, 16 Feb. 1960. The interpretation was that Die Transvaler might have been instructed by Verwoerd to remain non-committal until he had more time to gauge reaction to Macmillan's speech, whereas Die Burger was taking the lead in ‘kite flying’.

77 Die Transvaler, 4 Feb. 1960 (editorial); Cape Times, 4 Feb. 1960.

78 Die Burger, 4 Feb. 1960; ‘Letter from DWS Hunt (CRO) to Sir A. Clutterbuck’, 8 Feb. 1960, in Hyam and Louis, eds., The Conservative government, pp. 397–8.

79 Die Burger, 4 Feb. 1960. Similarly, Die Transvaler, 4 Feb. 1960, reported the two speeches alongside one another in the inside pages.

80 Die Burger (editorial), 5 Feb.1960.

81 Conversation between Sauer and Macmillan was strained. Mrs Sauer was irritated by Mrs Macmillan for waving at coloured pedestrians as their car sped by.

82 Illustrated London News, 20 Feb. 1960.

83 Star, 4 Feb. 1960.

84 Cape Argus, 4 Feb. 1960.

85 Die Transvaler, 22 Mar. 1960.

86 H. Macmillan, The Macmillan diaries: premiership, 1957–1966, ii:Prime minister and after, 1957–1966, ed. P. Catterall (Basingstoke, 2011), 2 Feb. 1960, p. 268.

87 Macmillan, Pointing the way, p. 152.

88 Miller R. B., ‘Science and society in the early career of H. F. Verwoerd’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 19 (1993), pp. 634–61. The account given by Verwoerd's son, Wilhelm, of his father's religious persona, is ambiguous. See Verwoerd W. J., ed., Verwoerd só Onthou Ons Hom (Pretoria, 2001), pp. 93–4.

89 TNA, PREM 11/3073, Home to Macmillan, 9 Dec. 1959, containing Baring's views.

90 Maud J. P. R., City government: the Johannesburg experiment (Oxford, 1938), p. 224. This wide-ranging – but not much used – text is a landmark local history. Maud tutored on the Oxford Colonial Administrative Services course from 1937 to 1939.

91 Extracts from Maud's valedictory dispatch to Lord Home as high commissioner and ambassador in Hyam and Louis, eds., The Conservative government, doc. 462, ‘Review of the problems of South Africa and British policy’, 14 May 1963, p. 455.

92 Times, 8 Feb. 1960.

93 South Africa: from Sharpeville to the Congo’, Round Table, 50 (1960), pp. 425–30, at p. 429.

94 Kenney, Verwoerd, p. 148; Pelzer A. N., ed., Verwoerd speaks: speeches, 1948–1966 (Johannesburg, 1966), pp. xxxxi; ‘South Africa: from Sharpeville to the Congo’, p. 427.

95 See e.g. Eisenberg, ‘The Commonwealth Conference’, p. 59; Guardian, 21 Jan. 1960.

96 Cape Argus, 23 Nov. 1960 (editorial), 16 Jan. 1961 (editorial).

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

98 Hepple A., Verwoerd (Harmondsworth, 1967), p. 181.

99 ‘“Policy towards South Africa: the United Nations items”: minute by Lord Home to Mr Macmillan’, 17 Dec. 1959, doc. 439, in Hyam and Louis, eds., The Conservative government, pp. 384–7.

100 Berridge G., Economic power in Anglo-South African diplomacy: Simonstown, Sharpeville and after (London, 1981), pp. 33 and ff, 104–7, 137 and ff. For a contemporary statement of the potential economic pitfalls for South Africa in its loss of commonwealth membership, see e.g. The commonwealth: a South African view’, Round Table, 50 (1960), pp. 365–70; TNA, PREM 11/3073, ‘Note for the record’ by Tim Bligh, 14 Dec. 1959.

101 Macmillan, Macmillan diaries, ii, 1 Jan. 1960 and 23 Mar. 1960, pp. 267, 281.

102 Times, 25 Mar. 1960.

103 ‘Cabinet conclusions’, doc. 448, in Hyam and Louis, eds., The Conservative government, pp. 404–6.

104 Macmillan, Pointing the way, p. 169.

105 Berridge, Economic power, p. 112; Hyam R. and Henshaw P., The lion and the springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War (Cambridge, 2003), p. 165.

106 Berridge, Economic power, p. 114.

107 Sampson, Macmillan, p. 192.

108 ‘“Note of a discussion between the prime minister and Dr Verwoerd” in Cape Town: minute by Macmillan’, doc. 443, in Hyam and Louis, eds., The Conservative government, pp. 292–4. See also Bellwood, South African backdrop, p. 160.

109 A. Horne, Macmillan, 1957–1986, p. 393; Sampson, Macmillan, p. 192; Richardson Boyce, ‘The Commonwealth Conference’, Africa South, 5 (1961), p. 7.

110 Cape Argus, 20 Mar. 1961; Die Transvaler, 21 Mar. 1960.

111 Kenney, Verwoerd, p. 206; South Africa departs’, Round Table, 51 (1961), pp. 237–42, at p. 238.

112 Sampson, Macmillan, ch. 11; Thorpe, Supermac, p. 463.

113 Sampson, Macmillan, p. 210.

114 Reynolds D., Summits: six meetings that shaped the twentieth century (London, 2008), p. 7.

115 TNA, CAB 129/101, ‘Prime minister's African tour’, pp. 137 and ff.

116 TNA, PREM 11/3072, summary of discussions on 2 Feb. 1960, between Macmillan and Verwoerd on United Nations: ‘Prime Minister warned Union that we might not be able to continue to support them on this [apartheid] but might have to abstain.’

* 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.

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