Harold MacMichael

Sir Harold Alfred MacMichael GCMG DSO (15 October 1882[1] – 19 September 1969)[2][3] was a British colonial administrator.

Sir Harold MacMichael
Harold MacMichael.jpg
Sir Harold MacMichael, High Commissioner for Palestine at sunken garden in the residency.
Governor of Tanganyika
In office
19 February 1934 – 8 July 1938
Preceded byGeorge Stewart Symes
Succeeded byMark Aitchison Young
High Commissioner of Palestine
High Commissioner for Trans-Jordan
In office
3 March 1938 – 30 August 1944
Preceded byArthur Grenfell Wauchope
Succeeded byThe Viscount Gort
Personal details
Born(1882-10-15)15 October 1882
Birchover, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
Died19 September 1969(1969-09-19) (aged 86)
Folkestone, Kent, United Kingdom

Early serviceEdit

Educated at Bedford School, MacMichael graduated with a first from Magdalene College, Cambridge.[4] After passing his civil service exam, he entered the Sudan Political Service in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He then served in the Blue Nile province until 1915 when he became a senior inspector of Khartoum province, rising to the position of civil secretary in 1926. In 1933 he became Governor of Tanganyika until 1937.

The next year he became High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Palestine and was blamed for sending at least 768 Jewish refugees aboard MV Struma to their deaths. During his tenure in Palestine, MacMichael was the target of seven unsuccessful assassination attempts, mainly by the Lehi Group (the Stern Gang). In the last, both he and his wife narrowly escaped death in an ambush that the Stern Gang mounted on 8 August 1944 on the eve of his replacement as High Commissioner.[5]

High Commissioner Harold MacMichael with Palestinian Mayors 1942: from left - Israel Rokach (Tel Aviv), Mustafa al-Khalidi (Jerusalem), MacMichael, Omar Effendi al Bitar (Jaffa), Shabtai Levy (Haifa)

MacMichael also served a stint as High Commissioner of Malta.

Malayan UnionEdit

The British Military Administration set to task of reviving pre-war plans for centralised control over the Malay states within days after British Allied forces landed in Singapore on 5 September 1945.

MacMichael, who had then completed his stint as High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Palestine was empowered to sign official treaties with the Malay rulers over the Malayan Union proposal scheme. MacMichael made several visits to the Malay rulers, beginning with Sultan Ibrahim of Johor in October 1945. The Sultan quickly consented to MacMichael's proposal scheme, which was motivated by his strong desire to visit England at the end of the year. MacMichael paid further visits to other Malay rulers over the proposal, and sought their consent over the proposal scheme. Many Malay rulers expressed strong reluctance in signing the treaties with MacMichael, partly because they feared losing their royal status and the prospect of their states falling into Thai political influence.[6]

It has to be mentioned that the Sultans signed under duress. The British were intent on securing their agreement, and were willing to depose of any disagreeing Sultan, if necessary. The all of the Malay Sultans signed with so little resistance can be attributed to a rather simple ploy by the British. In a non public manner, privately told that should they resist, an inquiry would be held into their relations, conduct, or collaboration with the Japanese Occupation during the war. The sitting rulers, many concerned that both their offices and social positions would be destroyed, quickly complied. Later, their positions confirmed and secure, many would complain that the Malay Rulers were not given the opportunity to consult with their state councils nor with each other. In the words of the Sultan of Kedah, "...I was presented with a verbal ultimatum and a time limit, and in the event of my refusing to sign the new agreement, ..a successor who would sign would be appointed."[7]

The treaties provided that United Kingdom had full administrative powers over the Malay states except in areas pertaining to Islamic customs. The Malays strongly protested against the treaties, as the treaties had the effect of circumscribing the spiritual and moral authority of the Malay rulers, which the Malays held high esteem over it. Communal tensions between the Malays and Chinese were high, and the prospect of granting citizenship to non-Malays was deemed unacceptable to the Malays.[6]

Opposition to Malayan Union and MacMichael's perceived highhanded ways in getting the Malay rulers consent led to the birth of Malay nationalism in then British Malaya


MacMichael's daughter, Araminta, married the politician and business leader Toby Low, 1st Baron Aldington. His daughter Priscilla married James Raynes, a US Naval officer.


  1. ^ Stiansen, Endre; Kevane, Michael (8 January 1998). Kordafan Invaded: Peripheral Incorporation and Social Transformation in Islamic Africa. BRILL. ISBN 9004110496 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Sir Harold Alfred MacMichael sept 19, 1969 - Google Search". www.google.com.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". www.leighrayment.com. Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2022.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "MacMichael, Sir Harold (Alfred), (15 Oct. 1882–19 Sept. 1969)". Who Was Who. WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U55793. ISBN 978-0-19-954089-1.
  5. ^ Ben-Yehuda, Nachman (1993). Political Assassinations by Jews: A Rhetorical Device for Justice. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. p. 204.
  6. ^ a b Bayly, Harper, Forgotten wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia, pg 133-4
  7. ^ Khong, Kim Hoong (2003). Merdeka! British Rule and The Struggle for Independence. Kuala Lumpur: SIRD. ISBN 9832535182.

External linksEdit