Mark Hurrell.

A People's History of GOV.UK

Concept and design for Government Digital Service

2017  2018

Historical accounts are often written for specific reasons. For a public infrastructure project like GOV.UK, narratives are often framed around what will get funding, buy in or satisfy policy requirements.

That sort of narrative is good at making sure the work can continue. But it can also make it hard for new people working on the software to understand how things happened. This can make it difficult to prioritise work, make informed decisions and avoid repeating mistakes.

Using the GitHub commit messages for the various GOV.UK codebases, I made a series of books telling an unabridged history of GOV.UK. The messages are dense and technical. But seen together, they show the dialogue between the people co-operating on the project, the fast-paced ebb and flow of ideas and collaboration throughout the years.

I called it “A people’s history of GOV.UK” with a nod to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”, hoping to tell an alternative version of how an infrastructure project like GOV.UK happens.


With github expertise and patience from Tim Blair.

Selected projects