List of prime ministers of the United Kingdom

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the head of the Government of the United Kingdom, and chair of the British Cabinet. There is no specific date for when the office of prime minister first appeared, as the role was not created but rather evolved over a period of time through a merger of duties.[1] However, the term was regularly if informally used of Walpole by the 1730s.[2] It was used in the House of Commons as early as 1805,[3] and it was certainly in parliamentary use by the 1880s.[4] In 1905 the post of prime minister was officially given recognition in the order of precedence.[5] Modern historians generally consider Sir Robert Walpole, who led the government of Great Britain for over twenty years from 1721,[6] as the first prime minister. Walpole is also the longest-serving British prime minister by this definition.[7] However, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the first and Margaret Thatcher the longest-serving prime minister officially referred to as such in the order of precedence.[8] The first to use the title in an official act was Benjamin Disraeli, who signed the Treaty of Berlin as "Prime Minister of her Britannic Majesty" in 1878.[9]

painting of Robert Walpole
photograph of Margaret Thatcher
photograph of Boris Johnson

Strictly, the first prime minister of the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Ireland) was William Pitt the Younger.[10] The first prime minister of the current United Kingdom, i.e. the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was Bonar Law,[11] although the country was not renamed officially until 1927, when Stanley Baldwin was the serving prime minister.[12]

Due to the gradual evolution of the post of prime minister, the title is applied to early prime ministers only retrospectively;[13] this has sometimes given rise to academic dispute. Lord Bath and Lord Waldegrave are sometimes listed as prime ministers.[14] Bath was invited to form a ministry by George II when Henry Pelham resigned in 1746,[15] as was Waldegrave in 1757 after the dismissal of William Pitt the Elder,[16] who dominated the affairs of government during the Seven Years' War. Neither was able to command sufficient parliamentary support to form a government; Bath stepped down after two days,[14] and Waldegrave after three.[16] Modern academic consensus does not consider either man to have held office as prime minister,[17] and they are therefore listed separately.

Before 1721Edit

Prior to the Georgian era, the Treasury of England was led by the Lord High Treasurer.[18] By the late Tudor period, the Lord High Treasurer was regarded as one of the Great Officers of State,[18] and was often (though not always) the dominant figure in government: Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (Lord High Treasurer, 1547–1549),[19] served as Lord Protector to his prepubescent nephew Edward VI;[19] William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (Lord High Treasurer, 1572–1598),[20] was the dominant minister to Elizabeth I;[20] Burghley's son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, succeeded his father as chief minister to Elizabeth I (1598–1603) and was eventually appointed by James I as Lord High Treasurer (1608–1612).[21]

By the late Stuart period, the Treasury was often run not by a single individual, i.e. Lord High Treasurer, but by a commission of Lords of the Treasury,[22] led by the First Lord of the Treasury. The last Lords High Treasurer, Lord Godolphin (1702–1710) and Lord Oxford (1711–1714),[23] ran the government of Queen Anne.[24]

After the succession of George I in 1714, the arrangement of a commission of Lords of the Treasury (as opposed to a single Lord High Treasurer) became permanent.[25] For the next three years, the government was headed by Lord Townshend, who was appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department.[26] Subsequently, Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland ran the government jointly,[27] with Stanhope managing foreign affairs and Sunderland domestic.[27] Stanhope died in February 1721 and Sunderland resigned two months later;[27] Townshend and Robert Walpole were then invited to form the next government.[28] From that point, the holder of the office of First Lord also usually (albeit unofficially) held the status of prime minister. It was not until the Edwardian era that the title prime minister was constitutionally recognised.[13] The prime minister still holds the office of First Lord by constitutional convention,[29] the only exceptions being Lord Chatham (1766–1768) and Lord Salisbury (1885–1886, 1887–1892, 1895–1902).[30]

From 1721Edit

Contents by century
18th century 19th century 20th century 21st century
     Whig (16)      Tory (10)      Conservative (19)      Liberal (7)      Labour (6)      National Labour (1) Monarch
Portrait Title
Prime Minister
Office
(Birth–Death)
Term of office & mandate[a]
Duration in years and days
Ministerial offices
held as prime minister
Party Government Ref.
  Sir Robert Walpole
(1676–1745)
3 April
1721
11 February
1742
1722 Whig Walpole–Townshend [31] George I

 

1714–1727

1727 George II

 

1727–1760

1734 Walpole
1741
20 years and 315 days
  Spencer Compton
1st Earl of Wilmington

(1673–1743)
16 February
1742
2 July
1743
Whig Carteret [32]
1 year and 137 days[†]
  Henry Pelham
(1694–1754)
27 August
1743
6 March
1754
Whig [33]
Broad Bottom I
1747 Broad Bottom II
10 years and 192 days[†]
  Thomas Pelham-Holles
1st Duke of Newcastle

(1693–1768)
16 March
1754
11 November
1756
1754 Whig Newcastle I [34]
2 years and 241 days
  William Cavendish
4th Duke of Devonshire

(1720–1764)
16 November
1756
29 June
1757
Whig Pitt–Devonshire [35]
1757 Caretaker
226 days
  Thomas Pelham-Holles
1st Duke of Newcastle

(1693–1768)
29 June
1757
26 May
1762
1761 Whig Pitt–Newcastle [36] George III

 

1760–1820

Bute–Newcastle
(ToryWhig)
4 years and 332 days
  John Stuart
3rd Earl of Bute

(1713–1792)
26 May
1762
8 April
1763
Tory Bute [37]
318 days
  George Grenville
(1712–1770)
16 April
1763
10 July
1765
Whig
(Grenvillite)
Grenville
(mainly Whig)
[38]
2 years and 86 days
  Charles Watson-Wentworth
2nd Marquess of Rockingham

(1730–1782)
13 July
1765
30 July
1766
Whig
(Rockinghamite)
Rockingham I [39]
1 year and 18 days
  William Pitt the Elder
1st Earl of Chatham

(1708–1778)
30 July
1766
14 October
1768
1768 Whig
(Chathamite)
Chatham [40]
2 years and 77 days
  Augustus FitzRoy
3rd Duke of Grafton

(1735–1811)
14 October
1768
28 January
1770
Whig
(Chathamite)
Grafton [41]
1 year and 107 days
  Frederick North
Lord North

(1732–1792)
28 January
1770
27 March
1782
1774 Tory
(Northite)
North [42]
1780
12 years and 59 days
  Charles Watson-Wentworth
2nd Marquess of Rockingham

(1730–1782)
27 March
1782
1 July
1782
Whig
(Rockinghamite)
Rockingham II [39]
97 days[†]
  William Petty
2nd Earl of Shelburne

(1737–1805)
4 July
1782
26 March
1783
Whig
(Chathamite)
Shelburne [43]
266 days
  William Cavendish-Bentinck
3rd Duke of Portland

(1738–1809)
2 April
1783
18 December
1783
Whig Fox–North [44]
261 days
  William Pitt the Younger
(1759–1806)
19 December
1783
14 March
1801
1784 Tory
(Pittite)
Pitt I [45]
1790
1796
17 years and 86 days
  Henry Addington
(1757–1844)
17 March
1801
10 May
1804
1801 Tory
(Addingtonian)
Addington [46]
1802
3 years and 55 days
  William Pitt the Younger
(1759–1806)
10 May
1804
23 January
1806
Tory
(Pittite)
Pitt II [47]
1 year and 259 days[†]
  William Grenville
1st Baron Grenville

(1759–1834)
11 February
1806
25 March
1807
1806 Whig All the Talents
(WhigTory)
[48]
1 year and 43 days
  William Cavendish-Bentinck
3rd Duke of Portland

(1738–1809)
31 March
1807
4 October
1809
1807 Tory
(Pittite)
Portland II [49]
2 years and 188 days
  Spencer Perceval
(1762–1812)
4 October
1809
11 May
1812
Tory
(Pittite)
Perceval [50]
2 years and 221 days[†]
  Robert Jenkinson
2nd Earl of Liverpool

(1770–1828)
8 June
1812
9 April
1827
1812 Tory
(Pittite)
Liverpool [51]
1818
1820 George IV

 

1820–1830

1826
14 years and 306 days
  George Canning
(1770–1827)
12 April
1827
8 August
1827
Tory
(Canningite)
Canning
(CanningiteWhig)
[52]
119 days[†]
  Frederick John Robinson
1st Viscount Goderich

(1782–1859)
31 August
1827
8 January
1828
Tory
(Canningite)
Goderich [53]
131 days
  Arthur Wellesley
1st Duke of Wellington

(1769–1852)
22 January
1828
16 November
1830
1830 Tory Wellington–Peel [54] William IV

 

1830–1837

2 years and 299 days
  Charles Grey
2nd Earl Grey

(1764–1845)
22 November
1830
9 July
1834
1831 Whig Grey [55]
1832
3 years and 230 days
  William Lamb
2nd Viscount Melbourne

(1779–1848)
16 July
1834
14 November
1834
Whig Melbourne I [56]
122 days
  Arthur Wellesley
1st Duke of Wellington

(1769–1852)
17 November
1834
9 December
1834
Tory Wellington Caretaker [57]
23 days
  Sir Robert Peel
(1788–1850)
10 December
1834
8 April
1835
Conservative Peel I [58]
120 days
  William Lamb
2nd Viscount Melbourne

(1779–1848)
18 April
1835
30 August
1841
1835 Whig Melbourne II [59]
1837 Victoria

 

1837–1901

6 years and 135 days
  Sir Robert Peel
(1788–1850)
30 August
1841
29 June
1846
1841 Conservative Peel II [58]
4 years and 304 days
  Lord John Russell
(1792–1878)
30 June
1846
21 February
1852
1847 Whig Russell I [60]
5 years and 237 days
  Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby

(1799–1869)
23 February
1852
17 December
1852
1852 Conservative Who? Who? [61]
299 days
  George Hamilton-Gordon
4th Earl of Aberdeen

(1784–1860)
19 December
1852
30 January
1855
Conservative
(Peelite)
Aberdeen
(PeeliteWhig–et al.)
[62]
2 years and 43 days
  Henry John Temple
3rd Viscount Palmerston

(1784–1865)
6 February
1855
19 February
1858
1857 Whig Palmerston I [63]
3 years and 14 days
  Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby

(1799–1869)
20 February
1858
11 June
1859
Conservative Derby–Disraeli II [64]
1 year and 112 days
  Henry John Temple
3rd Viscount Palmerston

(1784–1865)
12 June
1859
18 October
1865
1859 Liberal Palmerston II [65]
1865
6 years and 129 days[†]
  John Russell
1st Earl Russell

(1792–1878)
29 October
1865
26 June
1866
Liberal Russell II [60]
241 days
  Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby

(1799–1869)
28 June
1866
25 February
1868
Conservative Derby–Disraeli III [66]
1 year and 243 days
  Benjamin Disraeli
(1804–1881)
See also § Main articles:1 Conservative [67]
27 February
1868
1 December
1868
279 days
  William Ewart Gladstone
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone I [68]
3 December
1868
17 February
1874
1868
5 years and 77 days
  Benjamin Disraeli
1st Earl of Beaconsfield

(1804–1881)
See also § Main articles:1 Conservative Disraeli II [69]
20 February
1874
21 April
1880
1874
6 years and 62 days
  William Ewart Gladstone
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone II [70]
23 April
1880
9 June
1885
1880
5 years and 48 days
  Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury

(1830–1903)
23 June
1885
28 January
1886
Conservative Salisbury I [71]
220 days
  William Ewart Gladstone
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone III [70]
1 February
1886
20 July
1886
1885
170 days
  Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury

(1830–1903)
25 July
1886
11 August
1892
1886 Conservative Salisbury II [72]
6 years and 18 days
  William Ewart Gladstone
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone IV [70]
15 August
1892
2 March
1894
1892
1 year and 200 days
  Archibald Primrose
5th Earl of Rosebery

(1847–1929)
5 March
1894
22 June
1895
Liberal Rosebery [73]
1 year and 110 days
  Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury

(1830–1903)
25 June
1895
11 July
1902
1895 Conservative Salisbury III
(Con.Lib.U.)
[74]
1900 Salisbury IV
7 years and 17 days
  Arthur Balfour
(1848–1930)
12 July
1902
4 December
1905
Conservative Balfour [75] Edward VII

 

1901–1910

3 years and 146 days
  Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
(1836–1908)
5 December
1905
3 April
1908
1906 Liberal Campbell-Bannerman [76]
2 years and 121 days
  H. H. Asquith
(1852–1928)
8 April
1908
5 December
1916
Liberal Asquith I [77]
Jan.1910 Asquith II
Dec.1910 Asquith III George V

 

1910–1936

Asquith Coalition
(Lib.Con.–et al.)
8 years and 243 days
  David Lloyd George
(1863–1945)
6 December
1916
19 October
1922
Liberal Lloyd George War [78]
1918 Lloyd George II
(Lib.Con.)
5 years and 318 days
  Bonar Law
(1858–1923)
23 October
1922
20 May
1923
1922 Conservative
(Scot.U.)
Law [79]
210 days
  Stanley Baldwin
(1867–1947)
22 May
1923
22 January
1924
Conservative Baldwin I [80]
246 days
  Ramsay MacDonald
(1866–1937)
22 January
1924
4 November
1924
1923 Labour MacDonald I [81]
288 days
  Stanley Baldwin
(1867–1947)
4 November
1924
4 June
1929
1924 Conservative Baldwin II [82]
4 years and 213 days
  Ramsay MacDonald
(1866–1937)
5 June
1929
7 June
1935
1929 Labour MacDonald II [83]
National Labour National I
(N.Lab.Con.–et al.)
1931 National II
6 years and 3 days
  Stanley Baldwin
(1867–1947)
7 June
1935
28 May
1937
1935 Conservative National III [84]
1 year and 356 days Edward VIII

 

1936

  Neville Chamberlain
(1869–1940)
28 May
1937
10 May
1940
Conservative National IV [85] George VI

 

1936–1952

Chamberlain War
2 years and 349 days
  Winston Churchill
(1874–1965)
10 May
1940
26 July
1945
Conservative Churchill War [86]
5 years and 78 days Churchill Caretaker
(Con.L.Nat.)
  Clement Attlee
(1883–1967)
26 July
1945
26 October
1951
1945 Labour Attlee I [87]
1950 Attlee II
6 years and 93 days
  Sir Winston Churchill
(1874–1965)
26 October
1951
5 April
1955
1951 Conservative Churchill III [88]
3 years and 162 days Elizabeth II

 

1952-present

  Sir Anthony Eden
(1897–1977)
6 April
1955
9 January
1957
1955 Conservative Eden [89]
1 year and 279 days
  Harold Macmillan
MP for Bromley
(1894–1986)
10 January
1957
18 October
1963
Conservative Macmillan I [90]
1959 Macmillan II
6 years and 282 days
  Sir Alec Douglas-Home[b]
MP for Kinross and Western Perthshire
(1903–1995)
19 October
1963
16 October
1964
Conservative
(Scot.U.)
Douglas-Home [91]
364 days
  Harold Wilson
MP for Huyton
(1916–1995)
16 October
1964
19 June
1970
1964 Labour Wilson I [92]
1966 Wilson II
5 years and 247 days
  Edward Heath
MP for Bexley
(1916–2005)
19 June
1970
4 March
1974
1970 Conservative Heath [93]
3 years and 259 days
  Harold Wilson
MP for Huyton
(1916–1995)
4 March
1974
5 April
1976
Feb.1974 Labour Wilson III [92]
Oct.1974 Wilson IV
2 years and 33 days
  James Callaghan
MP for Cardiff South and Penarth
(1912–2005)
5 April
1976
4 May
1979
Labour Callaghan [94]
3 years and 30 days
  Margaret Thatcher
MP for Finchley
(1925–2013)
See also § Main articles:3 Conservative Thatcher I [95]
4 May
1979
28 November
1990
1979
1983 Thatcher II
1987 Thatcher III
11 years and 209 days
  John Major
(born 1943)
MP for Huntingdon
28 November
1990
2 May
1997
Conservative Major I [96]
1992 Major II
6 years and 156 days
  Tony Blair
(born 1953)
MP for Sedgefield
See also § Main articles:4 Labour Blair I [97]
2 May
1997
27 June
2007
1997
2001 Blair II
2005 Blair III
10 years and 57 days
  Gordon Brown
(born 1951)
MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath
See also § Main articles:5 Labour Brown [98]
27 June
2007
11 May
2010
2 years and 319 days
  David Cameron
(born 1966)
MP for Witney
See also § Main articles:6 Conservative Cameron–Clegg
(Con.Lib.Dems.)
[99]
11 May
2010
13 July
2016
2010
2015 Cameron II
6 years and 64 days
  Theresa May
(born 1956)
MP for Maidenhead
See also § Main articles:7 Conservative May I [100]
13 July
2016
24 July
2019
2017 May II
3 years and 12 days
  Boris Johnson
(born 1964)
MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip
See also § Main articles:8 Conservative Johnson I
24 July
2019
Incumbent
2019 Johnson II
1 year and 57 days
Title
Prime Minister
Office
(Birth–Death)
Term of office & mandate Ministerial offices Party Government Ref.

DisputedEdit

     Whig (2) Monarch
Title
Prime Minister
Office
(Birth–Death)
Term of office & mandate[a]
Duration in years and days
Ministerial offices
held as prime minister
Party Government Ref.
  William Pulteney
1st Earl of Bath

(1684–1764)
10 February
1746
12 February
1746
Whig Short Lived George II

 

(1727–1760)

3 days
  James Waldegrave
2nd Earl Waldegrave

(1715–1763)
8 June
1756
12 June
1756
Whig Waldegrave
5 days

Living former officeholdersEdit

As of September 2020, there are five living former British prime ministers. The most recent to die was Margaret Thatcher (1979–1990), on 8 April 2013.

See alsoEdit

Main articles

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b Legend for cells listed in the sixth column from right:
    • e.g.  1722  and  1841 —coloured containing a linked year
      indicates a general election won by the government (e.g. 1722) or one that led to its formation (e.g. 1841);
    • e.g.  1830 —shaded grey containing a linked year
      indicates an election resulting in no single party winning a Commons majority;
    • e.g.  — —coloured containing a dash
      indicates the formation of a majority government without an election;
    • e.g.  — —shaded grey containing a dash
      indicates the formation of a minority or coalition government during a hung parliament.
  2. ^ Douglas Home disclaimed his peerage as the Earl of Home on 23 October 1963. He was elected an MP on 7 November.

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

  1. ^ Hennessy 2001, pp. 39–40.
  2. ^ Stephen Taylor ODNB
  3. ^ Castlereagh 1805.
  4. ^ Eardley-Wilmot 1885; Macfarlane 1885.
  5. ^ Marriott 1923, p. 83.
  6. ^ Clarke 1999, p. 266; Hennessy 2001, pp. 39–40.
  7. ^ BBC News 1998.
  8. ^ Mackay 1987; Marriott 1923, p. 83.
  9. ^ Bogdanor 1997.
  10. ^ Burt 1874, p. 106; Castlereagh 1805.
  11. ^ Law 1922.
  12. ^ Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927.
  13. ^ a b Leonard 2010, p. 1.
  14. ^ a b Carpenter 1992, p. 37.
  15. ^ Leonard 2010, p. 47.
  16. ^ a b Leonard 2010, p. 65.
  17. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2011.
  18. ^ a b Chisholm 1911f.
  19. ^ a b Pollard 1904.
  20. ^ a b Chisholm 1911a.
  21. ^ Chisholm 1911c.
  22. ^ Chapman 2002.
  23. ^ Fisher Russell Barker 1890; Stephen 1890.
  24. ^ Morrill 2018.
  25. ^ Chapman 2002, p. 15.
  26. ^ McMullen Rigg 1899.
  27. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911d; Chisholm 1911e.
  28. ^ Chisholm 1911b; McMullen Rigg 1899.
  29. ^ UK Government 2013.
  30. ^ Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, p. 413; Locker-Lampson 1907, p. 497.
  31. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 1, 5; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 1–5; Pryde et al. 1996, pp. 45–46.
  32. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 41; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 14; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 7–10; Jones & Jones 1986, p. 222.
  33. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, pp. 41–42; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 17; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 11–15.
  34. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 28; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 16–21.
  35. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 44; Courthope 1838, p. 19; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 34; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 23–26; Schumann & Schweizer 2012, p. 143.
  36. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1980, p. 11; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 28; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 16–21; Pryde et al. 1996, p. 46; Tout 1910, p. 740.
  37. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 36; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 28–31; Jones & Jones 1986, p. 223; Tout 1910, p. 740.
  38. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 42; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 33–35; Tout 1910, p. 740.
  39. ^ a b The British Magazine and Review 1782, p. 79; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 46, 50; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 39–43.
  40. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 54; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 45–50; Kebbel 1864, p. 143; Venning 2005, p. 93.
  41. ^ Courthope 1838, p. 9; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 61; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 52–56; Venning 2005, p. 93; Vincitorio 1968, p. 156.
  42. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 64; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 58–62; Whiteley 1996, p. 24.
  43. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 73; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 64–68; Venning 2005, p. 93.
  44. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1980, p. 11; Courthope 1838, p. 25; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 77; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 69–74; Venning 2005, p. 93.
  45. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 85; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 75–78; Evans 2008, p. 4.
  46. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 94; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 83–85; Styles 1829, p. 266.
  47. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 85; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 75–77; Evans 2008, p. 4.
  48. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 98; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 90–92; Tout 1910, p. 740.
  49. ^ Courthope 1838, p. 25; Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 77; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 69–74; Evans 2008, p. 4.
  50. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 101; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 98–101; Evans 2008, p. 4.
  51. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 106; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 104–108; Evans 2008, p. 4; Pryde et al. 1996, p. 47.
  52. ^ Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 116, 133; Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 110–115.
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