Cover 9781785900310

This year marks the centenary of Harold Wilson’s birth, the fiftieth anniversary of his most impressive general election victory and forty years since his dramatic resignation as Prime Minister.

He was one of the longest-serving premiers of the twentieth century, having won a staggering four general elections, yet, despite this monumental record, his place in Labour’s history remains somewhat ambiguous.

By the end of his two periods in power, both the left and right of the party were highly critical of Wilson – the former regarding him as a traitor to socialism, the latter as contributing directly to British decline.

With contributions from leading experts in the fields of political study, and from Wilson’s own contemporaries, this remarkable new study offers a timely and wide-ranging reappraisal of one of the giants of twentieth-century politics, examining the context within which he operated, his approach to leadership and responses to changing social and economic norms, the successes and failure of his policies, and how he was viewed by peers from across the political spectrum. Finally, it examines the overall impact of Harold Wilson on the development of British politics.

Read a sample


“Harold Wilson pulled Labour together with pragmatism – sometimes by soothing, sometimes by the scruff of the neck – and won four times. This reappraisal is thorough, instructive and, particularly for Labour, timely.”

Neil Kinnock

“What better time than now to reappraise Harold Wilson? Here are good lessons to learn from the leader who held together a party riven between right and left. Labour seems to hate its winners – Wilson won four elections; Blair won three – but is compromise and consensus the vital winning formula? These authors mull over the fraught Wilson years and revive a deserved admiration for the man who ushered in an era of radical social reform in difficult times. A compelling read for all concerned about the current state of the Labour Party.”

Polly Toynbee

“A comprehensive and timely reappraisal of the man and his record.”

Betty Boothroyd

“[This] book of thoughtful essays … could hardly arrive at a better time.”

The Guardian

“This collection is a very stimulating contribution to any study of the Wilson years and Labour’s legacy as a political party.”


“This book offers a robust counter-narrative to existing appraisals of Wilson’s governments and his influence on British politics. [...]This challenge to historical orthodoxy makes this book an important one for scholars of British political history and indeed a broader non-academic readership.”

LSE Review of Books
Show more

Share this book

Buy this book

not available
  • eBook
  • ISBN: 9781785900587
  • 11 March 2016
  • £16.99

About our eBooks

Similar titles:

Rab Butler
British Labour Leaders
Didn’t You Use to Be Chris Mullin?
Marcia Williams