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Michael Norman Manley

(1924—1997) prime minister of Jamaica


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(b. Kingston, Jamaica, 10 Dec. 1924; d. Kingston, Jamaica, 6 March 1997)

Jamaican; Prime Minister 1972–80, 1989–92 The son of Norman Manley, the founder of the People's National Party (PNP) and a ‘father’ of Jamaican independence, Michael Manley entered a political dynasty, becoming leader of the PNP in 1969. He had previously studied economics at the LSE and worked for the BBC in London, organized Jamaican sugar workers in a PNP-run trade union, and been elected to parliament in 1969.

He led the PNP to victory in the 1972 election and two years later declared himself a democratic socialist, proposing a radical agenda of nationalizations, social reforms, and close ties with Cuba. He introduced legislation on union and women's rights, started a land reform, and spent heavily on health, education, and housing. The PNP was re-elected in 1976 but its second term was characterized by economic crisis and mounting political violence. Manley alleged that the USA and IMF, hostile to his brand of socialism and Third Worldism, destabilized the Jamaican economy, cutting credit, and imposing covert sanctions. The PNP lost the 1980 election to the conservative Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) of Edward Seaga.

After nine years in opposition, Manley returned to power in 1989, inheriting an even more bankrupt economy. By now he had recanted much of his earlier radicalism, made peace with Washington, and broken with the left-wing faction of the PNP. His government presented itself as pro-business and advocated privatization policies, although maintaining cautious links with Cuba.

In 1992 Manley retired from the premiership on grounds of ill-health, handing over power to P. J. Patterson. He subsequently worked as a consultant and contributed to various regional commissions and organizations.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Politics.


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