Richard Chapman: Scholar of public administration and authority on decision-making

Richard Chapman was a professor and scholar of public administration whose particular interest was decision-making and leadership in public life. His book on Sir Edward Bridges, a one-time head of the civil service – Ethics in the British Civil Service (1988) – was a tour de force that combined a biographical approach with a keen analysis of the way in which a top civil servant influenced and shaped public policy. Through his examination of the career of Lord Bridges, he raised important questions about the application of moral standards in official work, looking at how top appointments are made, the political attitudes and behaviour of civil servants, and the machinery of government and open government. In his teaching career, RAC – as he was known to his students – had a direct manner which could be startling for undergraduates, but he was very dedicated, skilled at persuading without applying too much pressure and always ready to invest time and patience in his teaching and mentoring role.

Richard Arnold Chapman, an only child, was born in Bexleyheath in 1937. His father worked for the Post Office until war took him away, and Richard was brought up by his mother and an aunt. He had an unremarkable school career, failing his 11-plus, before passing the 13-plus and being admitted to Dartford Grammar School. On leaving school he joined the Civil Service in the clerical grade.

But Chapman was ambitious – by passing the necessary exams, he moved up into the executive class, then and now the backbone of the civil service. His time in the public service, and later in the RAF doing national service, was influential in a number of ways. First and foremost it convinced him that the good society depended upon a core of publicly minded men and women dedicated to pursuing the public interest; his military service on the other hand confirmed his Quaker's dislike of war and all things connected with deadly combat.

In 1958 Chapman went to Leicester University to study politics. He took his BA and PhD there, interrupted by a spell in Carleton University in Canada, where he joined the politics department headed by Bruce Miller. In 1963 he moved, as Leverhulme Fellow in Public Administration, to the University of Liverpool, joining a politics department under Professor Wilfred Harrison, who was impressed and befriended his youngest staff member.

This was the time of the Fulton Report, the most influential inquiry into the civil service since Northcote Trevelyan put recruitment to the upper reaches of the service on the basis of merit rather than family connection. At the time of Fulton, Professor Lord Simey taught at Liverpool and through that connection Chapman, still in the early stage of his academic career, was invited to assist in preparing evidence for that wide-ranging inquiry in due course accepted by the Labour government. The Fulton Report suggested the need for a more specialised service – both in the sense of training in administration and in "technical" skills being needed (economics, finance, business administration etc) by top civil servants – and its conclusions led to the creation of a modern, more technocratic service.

From Liverpool Chapman moved to Birmingham where, at the Institute of Local Government, he pursued his interest in the politics of developing countries, inviting many distinguished academics and public servants to the Institute and himself doing numerous tours abroad. His acolytes, instilled with his belief in the virtues of a disinterested public service, could be found as far afield as Brazil and the Far East.

In 1971 Chapman was appointed Reader in Politics at Durham University, where he stayed for the rest of his career and where he was awarded a personal chair in 1986. His seminars on public administration took place for 25 years on Friday afternoons. When news came of his imminent appointment to a chair, students held up his progress to the lecture hall in order to rush out to buy celebratory champagne. The seminar eventually went ahead, but with a lighter feel to it.

Chapman wrote voluminously, publishing books, articles and reviews as well as attending conferences where he gave papers. In his inaugural lecture as Professor of Politics at Durham in 1986, Chapman chose a theme from Jean Jacques Rousseau – the "art of darkness" – as his title. The lecture boldly illustrates his adherence to the school of TH Green and the English neo-Hegelian idealists, who insisted that at the centre of the political quest had to be a pursuit of the good life. For Green the fashionable utilitarianism of his day was not enough for that purpose; for Chapman, equating politics with a successful manipulation of the economy, the great vogue of the Thatcher years, equally fell short of the mark.

For many years Chapman and his partner, Barry O'Toole. visited remote Greek islands at the height of the southern summer. Chapman relaxed wearing a wide straw hat in the shade with a heavy tome on his lap; it was serious recreation but that was a reflection of the man and his belief in inner conviction and purpose.

Richard Arnold Chapman, scholar of politics and public administration: born London 15 August 1937; assistant lecturer, Leicester University 1962-63; Leverhulme lecturer, Liverpool University 1963-68; senior lecturer, Birmingham University 1968-71; Reader 1971-86 Durham University, 1986-96 Professor; died Durham 15 April 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick