Here are some interesting documents which shed light on the organisation and culture of the civil service in the 1800s and early(ish) 1900s. Later developments are covered in detail in the Civil Service Reform section of this website.
- The modern UK civil service was created (after some delay) as a result of the recommendations of the 1854 Northcote Trevelyan Report. Its key characteristics are that civil servants are appointed on merit and through open competition, rather than patronage.
- (1854 also saw the publication of the Macaulay Report on the Indian Civil Service.)
- The 1918 Haldane Report recommended changes that had been shown to be necessary as a result of various problems that had arisen during the First World War. The relationship between civil servants and Ministers became one of mutual interdependence, with Ministers providing authority and officials providing expertise.
- HM Treasury's 1949 Handbook for the New Civil Servant offers a superb insight into the culture and organisation of the post-war Civil Service.
- Cabinet Secretary Sir Edward Bridges 1950 Portrait of a Profession "describe(s) the inhabitants of Whitehall in terms of the training and tradition, the outlook of mind, and aspirations which play so big a part in determining men's actions".
- The Civil Servant and His World - a young person's guide was published by Gollancz in 1966 and provides a rather more informal update to the 1949 Treasury handbook mentioned above. Follow these links to read:
All the above documents assume (correctly) that the Civil Service was predominantly a male preserve until the 1960s. This began to change after the publication of the Kemp-Jones Report in 1971. But there had of course been a good number of impressive and ground-breaking female civil servants employed before then. The Women in the Civil Service section of this website has a lot more information about them and about the employment of women in the civil service through to the present day..
I am also very glad to recommend Michael Coolican's book - No Tradesman and No Women - The Origins of the British Civil Service - published as recently as 2018.