The History of Civil Service

Civil service is the body of government officials who are employed in civil occupations that are neither political nor judicial. In most countries the term refers to employees selected and promoted on the basis of a merit and a system which may include examinations.

In earlier times, when civil servants were part of the king’s household, they were literally the monarch’s personal servants. As the powers of monarchs and princes declined, appointment became a matter of personal choice by ministers and heads of departments.

In Europe in the 19th century, appointment and promotion frequently depended on personal or political favour, but tenure was common in the lower and middle ranks once appointment had been made.

Recruitment in many European countries corresponded to the national educational systems: the highest class of civil servants entered service after graduation from a university, the executive class – after full completion of secondary school, the clerical class - after the intermediate school examination. As public

administration became more complex in the 20th century, specialized categories of civil servants were created to bring into the service doctors, scientists, architects, naval constructors, lawyers, and so on.

All countries base appointments on some kind of competition.

In some countries great emphasis is placed on formal written examinations supplemented by interviews. Such is the situation in France, where entry into the higher civil service is channeled through specialist schools. In Great Britain, the Civil Service Commission relies more on informal tests and a series of

interviews and tends to measure the candidate’s intellectual competence by the quality of his university degree. The conventional written examination is dispensed with also in such European countries as Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Portugal.

Most federal countries try to ensure an equitable distribution of posts among their constituent elements. In Switzerland the federal authorities try to maintain a balance of posts not only between the cantons but also between the political parties, religions, and languages.

There are certain standards which are placed upon a civil servant’s conduct. As a general rule, a civil servant is not allowed to engage directly or indirectly in any trade or business and may engage in social or charitable organizations only if these have no connection with official duties. There are always strict limits on a civil servant’s right to lend or borrow money, and they are prohibited from accepting gifts. There are also different attitudes about the extent to which civil servants may engage in political

activities. The United Kingdom bans its senior civil servants to engage in any form of political activity. The prohibition becomes progressively less strict, however, for the medium and lower

grades of the service.


B Mark the statements True or False according to the information in the text. Justify your answer by reference to the text.

1. Civil servants can’t be employed in political occupations.

2. Civil servants are usually promoted on the basis of their merits.

3. In the 19th century appointment often depended o the results of interviews.

4. Today all countries base appointments on some kind of competition.

5. Civil servants are not restricted in their conduct by any standards.

6. Civil servants are allowed to engage in business.

7. Civil servants are not allowed to accept gifts.


C Give the Russian equivalents for the following words and word combinations.

to be employed in; to make appointments; to depend on; tenure; lower (middle) ranks; personnel management; to bring into the service; to place emphasis on; intellectual competence; university degree; performance of duties; to engage in; to prohibit from.

D Complete these sentences using an appropriate phrase from Exercise B.

1. Civil servants can’t ......... political or judicial occupations.

2. In earlier times ......... were a matter of personal choice.

3. In the 20th century doctors, lawyers, architects were ........ .

4. Today many countries .............. on formal examinations and interviews while making appointments.

5. In Great Britain a candidate’s ............. is measured by the quality of his ..................... .

6. Usually, a civil servant is not allowed to ............ any trade or business.

7. In the UK civil servants are ................. from taking part in political activities.


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