The Official History of the British Civil Service: Reforming the Civil Service, Volume II: The Thatcher and Major Revolutions, 1982-97, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Official History of the British Civil Service

Reforming the Civil Service, Volume II: The Thatcher and Major Revolutions, 1982-97, 1st Edition

By Rodney Lowe, Hugh Pemberton


480 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138678224
pub: 2020-05-06
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This second volume of the Official History of the British Civil Service explores the radical restructuring of the Civil Service that took place during the Thatcher and Major premierships from 1982 until 1997, after a period of confusion and disagreement about its future direction.

The book brings a much-needed historical perspective to the development of the ‘new public management’, in which the UK was a world-leader, and considers difficult questions about the quality of democratic governance in Britain and the constitutional position of its Civil Service. Based on extensive research using government papers and interviews with leading participants, it concentrates on attempts to reform the Civil Service from the centre. In doing so, it has important lessons to offer all those, both inside and outside the UK, seeking to improve the quality, efficiency and accountability of democratic governance.

Particular light is shed on the origins of such current concerns as

    • The role of special advisers
    • The need for a Prime Minister’s Department
    • The search for cost efficiency
    • Accountability to Parliament and its Select Committees
    • Civil Service policy-making capacity and implementation capability.

This book will be of much interest to students of British history, government and politics, and public administration.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

Part I: The Interregnum 1981-1987

2. Filling the Hole at the Centre

3. Managing the Service

4. Government as an Employer

Part II: Next Steps, 1988-92

5. Next Steps

6. Transformation

Part III: Further Steps, 1992-97

7. From Next Steps to Competing for Quality

8. The Citizen’s Charter

9. Managing a Changing Service

10. Continuity and Change


11. The Final Assessment

About the Authors

The late Rodney Lowe was until his death in 2019Emeritus Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Bristol. He had published widely on comparative British history, and especially on UK government and welfare policy.

Hugh Pemberton is Professor Emeritus of Contemporary British History at the University of Bristol, and author of many books and articles on the recent history of British politics.

About the Series

Government Official History Series

The Government Official History series began in 1919 with wartime histories, and the peacetime series was inaugurated in 1966 by Harold Wilson. The aim of the series is to produce major histories in their own right, compiled by historians eminent in the field, who are afforded free access to all relevant material in the official archives. The Histories also provide a trusted secondary source for other historians and researchers while the official records are not in the public domain. The main criteria for selection of topics are that the histories should record important episodes or themes of British history while the official records can still be supplemented by the recollections of key players; and that they should be of general interest, and, preferably, involve the records of more than one government department.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / National
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Executive Branch