- "The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy."
– Oscar Wilde
Civil Service is the technology of bureaucracy - organizing and running a government. A successful civil service requires standard procedures, division of responsibility, hierarchy, and advancement through merit. Clearly record-keeping is crucial to the successful management of a government, as well. While some early cultures kept records on clay or wax or stone tablets, the advent of paper was a boon to the advance of bureaucracy and a civil service.
One of the oldest known civil services is found in China, during the Tang dynasty (600-900 AD). This was created largely in response to the Confucian demands for honest government. Among other innovations, the Tang civil servants were hired based upon the results of a written examination, rather than through the more common methods of bribery and patronage, and thus had fewer ties to the wealthy and powerful nobility.
The English followed the Chinese civil service model when they created a bureaucracy to manage their growing colonies. Though successful, the practice did not spread to Europe until the mid-18th century.