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Biographical entry Holt, Harold Edward (1908 - 1967)

Sydney, New South Wales
Politician - Federal - MHR and Employer Representative


Harold Holt was born in Sydney to Australian-born parents, educated at Randwick state school and then later at Wesley Preparatory School Melbourne. He studied law at the University of Melbourne. In 1934, Holt joined the Young Nationalists and stood for the United Australia Party [UAP] against James Scullin for the seat of Yarra. Through his father Tom Holt, a theatre entrepreneur, Holt developed close connections with the film and theatrical communities and was appointed Secretary of the Cinematograph Exhibitors’ Association in 1935. He won pre-selection for the safe blue-ribbon seat of Fawkner after the death of the incumbent member and won successfully in the same year. In 1939, Holt was promoted to minister without portfolio for supply and later trade and customs, and in 1940 was given the new portfolio of labour and national service. He became a member of the Liberal Party, which was formed after the demise of the UAP and returned as minister for labour and national service with the Coalition’s win in 1949. Holt took over as leader of the Liberal Party after the retirement of Robert Menzies. Initially presiding over a successful and prosperous first year in office, Holt’s prime-ministership suffered a series of setbacks in 1967 including a declining economy and escalating involvement in Vietnam. On the 15th December 1967 Holt disappeared off Cheviot Beach, Portsea during a solitary swim in rough waters. His body was never found.

Archival resources

National Archives of Australia, National Office

  • Papers - Harold Holt, 1934 - 1967; National Archives of Australia, National Office. Details

Published resources

Edited Books

  • Grattan, Michelle (ed.), Australian Prime Ministers, New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd, Australia, 2001, 512 pp. Details

Online Resources

Ross G. Elford