English writer and historian, celebrated for his study of public and business administration, Parkinson's Law: the Pursuit of Progress (1958), which included the dictum: ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’.
Parkinson's Law first appeared as an article in the London Economist in 1955, based largely on his experience of bureaucracy as an army staff officer. It was a humorous guide to boardroom behaviour and decision-making (or lack of it), exposing organizations that had become too large and unresponsive. He stated that administrators made work for each other to increase their staff numbers and enhance their own prestige. Parkinson introduced his second law in Law and the Profits (1960), which stated that expenditure always rises to meet income.
Parkinson was born in Barnard Castle in County Durham, England, and educated at St Peter's School, York. After graduating from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he received a PhD in history from King's College, London. He was a senior history master for a year at Blundell's School in Tiverton, before joining the teaching staff of the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in 1939. At the start of World War II, he was commissioned as a captain in the Queen's Royal Regiment and then attached to the RAF as an instructor in 1942. Promoted to major in 1943, he was transferred to the General Staff of the War Office in 1944. Parkinson joined the history faculty at the University of Liverpool in 1946 and was Raffles Professor of history at the University of Malaya (now Malaysia), Singapore 1950–58. He was appointed visiting professor at the University of Harvard in 1958 and at the Universities of Illinois and California in 1959.
Parkinson, Cyril Northcote