The Culture of Secrecy: Britain, 1832-1998


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.