Catalogue


The culture of secrecy [electronic resource] : Britain, 1832-1998 /
David Vincent.
imprint
Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
description
xii, 364 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0198203071 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
More Details
imprint
Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
isbn
0198203071 (alk. paper)
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
8566226
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 329-355) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1999-10-01:
Vincent's excellent book explores a difficult topic with consummate skill. Vincent traces the history of secrecy in British society from the Reform Bill of 1832 to the present. As the title suggests, he goes beyond the conventional institutional narrative to unravel the often complex paradoxes of secrecy and trust in a class-conscious society. Although Britain prided itself on its liberal, democratic values, it also enforced a culture of "honourable secrecy" that baffled outsiders and long resisted pressure for radical change. As the Victorian regulatory apparatus evolved into the larger, more intrusive bureaucracies of the 20th century, citizens feared for their privacy while politicians and civil servants professed allegiance to an often unenforceable code of integrity, competence, and trust. Vincent analyzes well the story of Asquith's potentially catastrophic divulgence of state secrets to his mistress during the WW I. Although more might have been said about Eden and the Suez crisis, the author treats the last part of this century with a sensitive ear for hypocrisy on both Left and Right. Above all, his admirably concise prose encapsulates the tensions and ambiguities of his subject. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. L. LeMahieu Lake Forest College
Reviews
Review Quotes
'an admirable survey of secrecy, both at the national and at the private levels, over the last century and a half of the country's fast changing history.'Stephen Fleming, Irish Independent (Dublin), 15/05/99.
'David Vincent ranges much wider than the normal accounts of secrecy. He steps outside the Whitehall machine and investigates secrecy in other areas of British life thereby providing a series of perspectives that are so often missing from other accounts of secrecy. The conclusions that Vincentdraws are therefore particulalry important not just for the political scientists but also for lawyers who wish to understand the social context of the law and other professionals who seek to understand how and why their professions operate in the way they do.'Clive Ponting
'good discussion of some of the central paradoxes of state secrecy'Peter Gill, Journal of Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 15, Autumn 2000
'New ethical outlooks are required and new rules for trust must be made. This timely book shows us the scale of the task.'David Stafford, History Today, June 1999.
'the book is clearly written and functions well both as a reference work for those with specific questions about the operation of secrecy and as a more general account of the management of information in modern Britain'The Journal of Modern History, Vol.73, No.1
'The book is well-written each chapter ends with some vignette of the period that encompasses the themes and the author has a keen eye for the sheer absurdities of British practice over the years'Peter Gill, Journal of Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 15, Autumn 2000
'The book will be of tremendous use to anyone wishing to unravel the intricate codes and laws that underlay Britain's 150 year commitment to the idea of secrecy'The Journal of Modern History, Vol.73, No.1
'The strength of this book is its sweep. No facet of secrecy in British society in the period surveyed is overlooked.'Phillip Knightley, Sunday Times
This is the best book ever written on the history of official secrecy in Britian ... it ranges much wider than the Whitehall machine and investigates secrecy in other areas of British public life. It is this aspect of David Vincent's work that provides a range of perspective that is so often missing from other accounts of secrecy.
'This is the most sophisticated and wide-ranging book ever written on the history of official secrecy in Britain and should be studied by all those interested in the interactionof law and society. it achieves this status because it concentrates on the social and economic context of secrecy andthe way in which the development of secrecy suited the changing nature of British society and, in particular, the needs of teh elites who dominated that society... The central feature, and great strength, of this book is that it tries to answer the question why Britain, almost alone among westerndemocracies, has had such a pervasive culture of secrecy.'Clive Ponting
"Vincent's excellent book explores a difficult topic with consummate skill....the author treats the last part of this century with a sensitive ear for hypocrisy on both Left and Right. Above all, his admirably concise prose encapsulates the tensions and ambiguities of his subject."--Choice
"Vincent's excellent book explores a difficult topic with consummate skill....the author treats the last part of this century with a sensitive ear for hypocrisy on both Left and Right. Above all, his admirably concise prose encapsulates the tensions and ambiguities of his subject."-- Choice
'Vincent's excellent book explores a difficult topic with consummate skill ... the author treats the last part of this century with a sensitive ear for hypocrisy on both Left and Right. Above all, his admirably concise prose encapsulates the tensions and ambiguities of his subject.'D L LeMahieu, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Vol 37, no2 October 1999
'The book will be of tremendous use to anyone wishing to unravel the intricate codes and laws that underlay Britain's 150 year commitment to the idea of secrecy'The Journal of Modern History, Vol.73, No.1'the book is clearly written and functions well both as a reference work for those with specific questions about the operation of secrecy and as a more general account of the management of information in modern Britain'The Journal of Modern History, Vol.73, No.1'The book is well-written each chapter ends with some vignette of the period that encompasses the themes and the author has a keen eye for the sheer absurdities of British practice over the years'Peter Gill, Journal of Intelligence & National Security, Vol. 15, Autumn 2000'good discussion of some of the central paradoxes of state secrecy'Peter Gill, Journal of Intelligence & National Security, Vol. 15, Autumn 2000'This is the most sophisticated and wide-ranging book ever written on the history of official secrecy in Britain and should be studied by all those interested in the interactionof law and society. it achieves this status because it concentrates on the social and economic context of secrecy and the way in which the development of secrecy suited the changing nature of British society and, in particular, the needs of teh elites who dominated that society...The central feature, and great strength, of this book is that it tries to answer the question why Britain, almost alone among western democracies, has had such a pervasive culture of secrecy.'Clive Ponting'David Vincent ranges much wider than the normal accounts of secrecy. He steps outside the Whitehall machine and investigates secrecy in other areas of British life thereby providing a series of perspectives that are so often missing from other accounts of secrecy. The conclusions that Vincent draws are therefore particulalry important not just for the political scientists but also for lawyers who wish to understand the social context of the law and otherprofessionals who seek to understand how and why their professions operate in the way they do.'Clive Ponting'Vincent's excellent book explores a difficult topic with consummate skill ... the author treats the last part of this century with a sensitive ear for hypocrisy on both Left and Right. Above all, his admirably concise prose encapsulates the tensions and ambiguities of his subject.'D L LeMahieu, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Vol 37, no2 October 1999'The strength of this book is its sweep. No facet of secrecy in British society in the period surveyed is overlooked.'Phillip Knightley, Sunday Times'New ethical outlooks are required and new rules for trust must be made. This timely book shows us the scale of the task.'David Stafford, History Today, June 1999.'an admirable survey of secrecy, both at the national and at the private levels, over the last century and a half of the country's fast changing history.'Stephen Fleming, Irish Independent (Dublin), 15/05/99.'path-breaking book'Bernard Porter, LRB 15/07/99'a wide-ranging book'Nicholas Hiley, TLS, 28/05/99
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 1999
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
A comprehensive study of the closure of communication in modern British history, right up to 1998, this book seeks to understand why secrets have been kept, and how the systems of control have been constructed and challenged over the past 160 years.
Long Description
The Culture of Secrecy is the first comprehensive study of the restriction of official information in modern British history. It seeks to understand why secrets have been kept, and how systems of control have been constructed - and challenged - over the past hundred and sixty years. The author transcends the conventional boundaries of political or social history in his wide-ranging diagnosis of the 'British disease' - the legal forms and habits of mind which together have constituted the national tradition of discreet reserve. The chapters range across bureaucrats and ballots, gossip and gay rights, doctors and dole investigators in their exploration of the ethical basis of power in the public, professional, commercial and domestic spheres. Professor Vincent examines concepts such as privacy and confidentiality, honour and integrity, openness and freedom of expression, which have served as benchmarks in the development of the liberal state and society.
Long Description
This is the first, comprehensive study of the culture of secrecy in modern British history. Accessibly written, it places current controversies over privacy and confidentiality, secrecy and openness, integrity and public trust, in the context of the development of the liberal state since 1832.
Main Description
The Culture of Secrecy is the first comprehensive study of the restriction of official information in modern British history. It seeks to understand why secrets have been kept, and how systems of control have been constructed - and challenged - over the past hundred and sixty years. The authortranscends the conventional boundaries of political or social history in his wide-ranging diagnosis of the 'British disease' - the legal forms and habits of mind which together have constituted the national tradition of discreet reserve. The chapters range across bureaucrats and ballots, gossip andgay rights, doctors and dole investigators in their exploration of the ethical basis of power in the public, professional, commercial and domestic spheres. Professor Vincent examines concepts such as privacy and confidentiality, honour and integrity, openness and freedom of expression, which haveserved as benchmarks in the development of the liberal state and society.
Main Description
This is the first, comprehensive study of secrecy in modern British history. Professor Vincent examines how and why secrets have been kept, and how systems of control have been constructed - and challenged - over the past hundred and sixty years. It is the only book to place current controversies over freedom of information in the context of the development of the liberal state since 1832.
Table of Contents
Bibliography
Index
The Problem of Secrecy
Honourable Secrecy 1832-1870
The Road to Regulation, 1870-1911
Public Knowledge, 1911-1945
Citizenship and Secrecy, 1945-1972
Secrecy and Reform, 1972-1989
The British Way
Afterword
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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