Abstract: Networking between Businessmen and Government Officials in Post-War Britain

Neil Rollings


This paper explores the role played by two previously unstudied forums where leading British business people and top civil servants came together. Both came into existence in the early 1960s and still existed, with hardly any changes in format, over thirty years later. One consisted of an annual weekend conference for about 30 individuals, the other a course for about 20-25 individuals, lasting for two weeks for slightly more junior high fliers. Both business leaders and elite civil servants attached considerable importance to these meetings, and found them valuable as a means of knowledge transfer to improve mutual understanding and as a way of building and sustaining social networks. Since these meetings were kept private and trade unionists were excluded, they offered a means of access to permanent civil servants that was unavailable to labor. Equally, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that these links might have helped civil servants to get directorships when they retired from the civil service. While all of this points to insider status for top businessmen, we need to be careful not to overplay this. Both at the beginning and at the end of the period, businessmen pointed to the value of these meetings because British society was so compartmentalized.