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.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice