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Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel

Douglas-Home, Alexander Frederick, Baron Home of the Hirsel (dŭgˈləs-hyōm) [key], 1903–95, British politician. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he was elected to the House of Commons in 1931 as a Conservative. As parliamentary private secretary (1937–39) to Neville Chamberlain, he supported the latter's policy of appeasement toward Nazi Germany. He lost his Commons seat in 1945; reelected in 1950 he resigned (1951) when he succeeded his father's peerage as the 14th earl of Home. He served as minister of state (1951–55), secretary of state for commonwealth relations (1955–60), and leader of the House of Lords (1957–60). As foreign secretary (1960–63), he pursued a policy of détente with the USSR and worked for the establishment of an independent British nuclear deterrent.

In Oct., 1963, he became prime minister after Harold Macmillan's resignation, emerging as the controversial compromise choice of a divided party. The first peer to become prime minister since 1902, he renounced his Scottish title for life and took a seat in Commons as Sir Alec Douglas-Home. As prime minister, he was handicapped by the divisions within his party and the continuing distraction of the Profumo scandal.

After the Conservative defeat in Oct., 1964, he led the opposition until July, 1965. During his term as Conservative party leader, reforms gave the party's members of Parliament the power to elect the party leader. Douglas-Home was foreign secretary (1970–74) under Edward Heath. He retained his seat in Commons until 1974, when he was created a life peer.

See his autobiography The Way the Wind Blows (1976).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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