Sir Harold Alfred MacMichael was educated at Bedford Grammar School and Magdalene College, Cambridge where he received a first class in Classical Tripos. He passed the Arabic exam for the Sudan Political Service in 1905 which was then regarded as one of the top arms of the civil service. He was sent to the Kordofan and then the Blue Nile province until 1915. He was then made a senior inspector of the Khartoum province and then the assistant civil secretary and finally civil secretary of that province in 1926. In 1933, he was transferred to Tanganyika to become its governor. He held this post until 1937. In 1938, he took on the very difficult job of High Commissioner for Palestine. The difficulties of this job were demonstrated when the Jews made an attempt on his life in 1944. He survived the incident, but his wife was wounded in it. He moved to Malaya and played an instrumental role in writing a constitution for the it. He also spent a year in Malta in 1946.
He wrote Sudan Notes and Records (1918), A History of the Arab in the Sudan (1922), The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1934) and The Sudan (1954)