The Official History of the British Civil Service: Reforming the Civil Service, Volume I: The Fulton Years, 1966-81, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Official History of the British Civil Service

Reforming the Civil Service, Volume I: The Fulton Years, 1966-81, 1st Edition

By Rodney Lowe


552 pages

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This first volume of the Official History of the UK Civil Service covers its evolution from the Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1854 to the first years of Mrs Thatcher’s government in 1981.

Despite current concerns with good governance and policy delivery, little serious attention has been paid to the institution vital to both: the Civil Service. This Official History is designed to remedy this by placing present problems in historical context and by providing a helpful structure in which others, and particularly former officials, may contribute to the debate. Starting with the seminal 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan Report, it covers the ‘lost opportunity’ of the 1940s when the Service failed to adapt the needs of ‘big government’ as advocated by Beveridge and Keynes. It then examines, in greater detail, the belated attempts at modernisation in the 1960s, the Service’s vilification in the 1970s and the final destruction of the ‘old order’ during the first years of Mrs Thatcher’s government.

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 evolution of Parliamentary Select Committees to resolve the potential tension between bureaucracy and Parliamentary democracy.

This Official History is based on extensive research into both recently released and unreleased papers as well as interviews with leading participants. It has important lessons to offer all those, both inside and outside the UK, seeking to improve the quality of democratic government.

This book will be of great interest to all students of British history, British government and politics, and of public administration in general.

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Legacy 1.The Northcote-Trevelyan Report and the Evolution of the Civil Service, 1854 - 1916 2. The Fisher-Bridges Settlement, 1916-56 Part 2: The Reform Momentum 3. Modernisation before Fulton, 1956-66 4. The Fulton Committee, 1966-8 Part 3: The Politics and Planning of Reform 5. Modernisation’s Moment, 1968-72 6. The Crisis of Consensus, 1973-9 7. Mrs Thatcher and the Demise of the Civil Service Department, 1979-81 Part 4: Wider Issues, 1966-81 8. Whitleyism, 1966-81 9. Management Challenges 10. Political Pressures Part 5: Conclusion 11. Ringing out the Old, Ringing in the New

About the Author

Rodney Lowe is Emeritus Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Bristol. He has published widely on comparative history, and especially on UK government and welfare policy.

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 / Public Affairs & Administration