Civil Service Commission 1855-1991: A Bureau Biography, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Civil Service Commission 1855-1991

A Bureau Biography, 1st Edition

By Richard A. Chapman


308 pages

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The Civil Service Commision was created in 1855 and became the key institution in the development of the British civil service. Its work was primarily the recruitment of civil servants by fair methods, treating all qualified applicants equally, and using open competitions wherever practicable. It was held in high esteem not only in the United Kingdom but also in the many other countries throughout the world which, in many places, modelled their methods of public service recruitment on its pioneering work. It continued until 1991, when most of its work was devolved to over 3,000 government departments and executive agencies.

This book describes the gestation, growth, development and eventual demise of the Commision and includes a number of in-depth case studies. Using source material such as official files, many only recently available for research, together with other records and evidence to official committees, the book provides a biography of an institution. It shows how the department was formally organised and there is a particular focus on how it actually worked on a day-to-day basis. With three in-depth chapters on the chronological development of the Commision and seven case studies of themes or issues that reveal methods of work and influences on its activities, this book uses file-based research more extensively than any other history of a British government department.

The Civil Service Commision, 1855-1991 reveals insights into civil service recruitment and makes a major original contribution to our understanding of the practice and politics of public administration.


'In writing this valuable book, Richard Chapman has been an eager customer for Sarah Tyacke at the National Archives … his devilling in the archives has uncovered some gems.' - Guardian, September 2004

About the Author

Richard A. Chapman is Emeritus Professor of Politics in the Durham Business School. He previously taught at Carleton University, Canada and the universities of Leicester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Durham. He is foundation Academician of the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences. His previous books include Ethics in the British Civil Service (1988), The Treasury in Public Policy-Making (1997) and Leadership in the British Civil Service (1984)

About the Series

British Politics and Society

Social change impacts not just upon voting behaviour and party identity but also the formulation of policy. But how do social changes and political developments interact? Which shapes which? Reflecting a belief that social and political structures cannot be understood either in isolation from each other or from the historical processes which form them, this series will examine the forces that have shaped British society and culture. Cross- disciplinary approaches will be encouraged. In the process, the series will aim to make a contribution to existing fields, such as politics, history, sociology and media studies, as well as opening out new and hitherto-neglected fields.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General