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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week