Many of today’s debates about how to make government more effective have strong links to the changes and reforms from Whitehall’s recent past. To understand how it got to where it is today, where it is going, and why it approaches reform in the way it does, it is necessary to understand this institutional past.

The Contemporary History of Whitehall project looked at the recent history of Whitehall between 1979 and 2010 to try to understand some of the changes in organisation, people, role and functions that underpin how Whitehall operates today and what forces affect its approach to change.

This project sought to balance archival and documentary research with extensive interviews with people who worked in Whitehall during this period. The value of this project and its intended impact lay in the combination of historical humanities-driven research and practitioner perspectives.

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through a partnership between the Institute for Government and King’s College London.

The research team comprised Dr Catherine Haddon (Fellow, Institute for Government) Professor Ken Young (King’s College London) and Dr Joe Devanny (post-doctoral researcher, King’s College London).

Related projects

Past lessons of civil service reform

Project Contacts