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Wilson, Sir (James) Harold

Wilson, Sir (James) Harold (1916–95) British statesman, prime minister (1964–70, 1974–76). Wilson entered Parliament in 1945 and, as President of the Board of Trade (1945–51) under Clement Attlee, was Britain's youngest Cabinet member since William Pitt (the Younger). In 1951, he resigned from the Cabinet over the imposition of medical prescription charges. In 1963, Wilson succeeded Hugh Gaitskell as Labour leader. He gained a narrow general election victory over Harold Macmillan. His administration faced a foreign policy dilemma when Rhodesia's white-minority government unilaterally declared independence in 1965. Challenged by a domestic economic crisis, Wilson imposed strict price and income controls and devalued the currency in 1967. Rising unemployment and widening labour disputes contributed to his defeat by Ted Heath in the 1970 general election. Disagreements over nationalization and membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) threatened to divide the Labour Party. Nevertheless, in 1974 Wilson returned to power at the head of a minority Labour government. In 1976, he unexpectedly resigned and was succeeded by Jim Callaghan.

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