1st Edition

The Official History of the British Civil Service Reforming the Civil Service, Volume II: The Thatcher and Major Revolutions, 1982-97

By Rodney Lowe, Hugh Pemberton Copyright 2020
    428 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    428 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.


    1. Introduction

    Part I: The Interregnum 198187

    2. Filling the Hole at the Centre

    3. Managing the Service

    4. Government as an Employer

    Part II: Next Steps, 198892

    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


    The late Rodney Lowe was until his death in 2019 Emeritus 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.