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How robust is the UK’s standards system and what needs to change

Part of the conference held at the University of Sussex on April 8th, 2022: 'Ethics and the Civil Service- Past, Present, and Future'.

The event brought together historians, political scientists, civil servants, lobbyists and politicians to investigate the factors that lay behind the revelations of poor standards of ethical conduct among senior civil servants in Whitehall in recent scandals such as the Greensill Affair and the ongoing 'Partygate'. The symposium also sought to challenge the persistent myth that traditionally high standards of professional conduct among UK Civil Servants have their roots in the 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan Report and to emphasise that it was the 'modern' Civil Service which administered the British Empire in its final century.

Speakers:

Professor Elizabeth David-Barrett (University of Sussex) 

Professor Gillian Peele (University of Oxford) 

Dr Susan Hawley (Executive Director, Spotlight on Corruption) 

Facilitator: Professor Robert Barrington (University of Sussex)

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The Civil Service and the British Empire

Part of the conference held at the University of Sussex on April 8th, 2022: 'Ethics and the Civil Service- Past, Present, and Future'.  

The event brought together historians, political scientists, civil servants, lobbyists and politicians to investigate the factors that lay behind the revelations of poor standards of ethical conduct among senior civil servants in Whitehall in recent scandals such as the Greensill Affair and the ongoing 'Partygate'. The symposium also sought to challenge the persistent myth that traditionally high standards of professional conduct among UK Civil Servants have their roots in the 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan Report and to emphasise that it was the 'modern' Civil Service which administered the British Empire in its final century.

Speakers:

Dr Colin Alexander (Nottingham Trent University) - 'Inside the Mind of the Colonial Administrator: Enthusiasm, Self-loathing, Denial and Preservation' 

Dr Steven Pierce (University of Manchester) – ‘Poison and Typewriters: Framing Government Malpractice in Colonial Northern Nigeria’ 

Chair: Dr Ian Cawood (University of Stirling)

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Why History matters in Government

Sir Anthony Seldon examined how history has often been marginalised from the policy-making process, and how some of the poorest decisions in Whitehall have been informed by historical illiteracy. He looked at the reasons why recordkeeping, institutional memory and evaluation of historical precedent have all been in decline, and attempted to answer the question – if history matters, how can it have practical value and not just remain an academic subject?

SpeakerSir Anthony Seldon (former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham)

Discussants:

  • Dr Andrew Blick (King’s College London, former director of History & Policy)
  • Dr Juanita Cox (Research Fellow at the School of Advanced Study investigating The Windrush scandal in a trans-national and Commonwealth context
  • Dr Duncan Needham (Darwin College, Cambridge, Director of the Centre for Financial History)
  • Prof Sally Sheard (Executive Dean, Institute of Population Health, University of Liverpool)
  • Prof Simon Szreter (St John’s College, Cambridge, co-founder of History & Policy)

Chair: Professor Philip Murphy (Director of History & Policy, IHR)

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Round Table Discussion on Russia’s War Against Ukraine in Historical Perspective

On the 21 March 202, History & Policy hosted a special online seminar on Russian foreign policy towards Ukraine in a historical perspective. Experts from across the world will considered some of the following questions:

  1. How might long-term readings of Russian history, epitomised by George F. Kennan’s characterisation of the ‘natural outlook’ of the Russian people in his 1946 telegram, offer us insight into the current crisis? Are there indeed perennial elements to Russia’s strategic outlook and foreign policy?  
  2. To what extent do parallels between the current war in Ukraine, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Cold War clampdowns in Czechoslovakia and Hungary further our understanding of the potential outcomes of this conflict?  
  3. How does the current international response to the conflict compare to previous reactions to Soviet expansionism, which have ranged from official condemnation to proxy warfare, and what does this suggest about the efficacy of the current scheme of sanctions and humanitarian and lethal aid? 
  4. To what extent has the history of the region become part of public diplomacy and ‘information warfare’ in the Ukraine crisis?  

Panellists: 

  • Dr Nikolay Anguelov (Associate Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)
     
  • Prof Marta Dyczok (University of Western Ontario, specialist in international politics and history, with a focus on East Central Europe and Eurasia, and specifically Ukraine)
     
  • Prof Jamil Hasanli (Azerbaijani historian, author, and politician. Visiting fellow at the Institute of Historical Research)
     
  • Prof Roger E. Kanet (Professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Miami)
     

Please consider donating to Save the Children.

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History and Institutional Memory: Official, Authorised and Internal Histories in Perspective

Histories commissioned by government, either for general publication or for purely internal use, have long been seen as an important means of capturing ‘institutional memory’ and learning from the past. Yet as the Chief Historian of the FCDO, Patrick Salmon notes in a recent open-access monograph (see below), professional historians have sometimes viewed the genre with considerable scepticism. This round table discussion examines the nature of official, authorised and internal histories from the perspectives of those who have been involved in producing and using them within Whitehall, and of historians who have written about them. The issues it seeks to explore include:

  • The opportunities and risks of working closely with government to generate historical accounts
  • The extent to which authorised and in-house histories diverge from conventional works of academic history
  • The philosophical and methodological issues raised by the attempt to ‘learn lessons from history’
  • The future of this field of history in the twenty-first century

Panellists:

  • Patrick Salmon, Chief Historian at the FCDO. Author of The Control of the Past: Herbert Butterfield and the Pitfalls of Official History (IHR, 2021)
  • Helen McCarthy, Professor of Modern and Contemporary British History at the University of Cambridge. Author of Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat (Bloomsbury 2014)
  • Rachel King, Deputy Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary (FCDO)
  • Simon J Ball, Professor of International History and Politics, University of Leeds. Author of, Secret History: Writing the Rise of Britain's Intelligence Services (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2020)
  • Michael Goodman, Professor of Intelligence and International Affairs, Head of the Department of War Studies and Dean of Research Impact at King's College London. Author of The Official History of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Volume I: From the Approach of the Second World War to the Suez Crisis (Routledge, 2014).

The session was chaired by Professor Philip Murphy, Director of History & Policy

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