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The Ministry of Magic, as we know, is the governing body for the magical community in Britain. It is presided over by the Minister for Magic, who is effectively the wizarding equivalent of the Muggle Prime Minister, being the most senior official in the executive branch of the Ministry. There are apparently other ministries around the wolrd that perform the same or similar functions in their respective countries, e.g. in Bulgaria, and we come across the Bulgarian Minister in the novels. According to the Harry Potter Wikia the Ministry was founded sometime in (or prior to) 1629, and was the successor of the Wizards' Council. The Ministry has a number of responsibilities chief among which is maintenance of the Statute of Secrecy (although it is notable that this Statute was adopted by the International Confederation of Wizards sometime after the creation of the Ministry itself, in 1689/92).

Out of universe, it seems clear that the Ministry of Magic is intended to serve as an analogue for the parliamentary government of Great Britain. However, it is not clear in universe how and why exactly the Ministry would come to be.

Why would the magical community adopt an institution with procedures and representatives whose names and particulars seem to be derivative of the Muggle community and its governance? (For instance, the term "Minister" was used to refer to an official in the Muggle royal court who held a position of great influence with the King. Derived from Olde French and Latin, it means "servant", in context a servant of the monarch. The first documented use of "Prime Minister" was by Cardinal Richelieu of France in 1625, in his role as chief advisor to Louis XIII).

And what changed in or before the 1620s that made Wizards decide that the old Wizards' Council was no longer fit for purpose and needed to be replaced with a new governmental system? It is noteworthy that while the (Muggle) Parliament of England had existed for several centuries by this point in time, it was in the 1620s that conflict between the Parliament and the Stuart monarchy really began to come to a head, leading to the Petition of Right in 1628 where the House of Commons sought to restore liberties that they believed the King was infringing. This was followed not long after by the English Civil War as the conflict between the Monarchy and the Commons boiled over. Over the course of the 17th century as a whole, the English Parliament as we know it today would be born.

All of this begs the question: in universe, was there a comparable political development or conflict (or infringement of rights) in the magical community that could explain the (possibly near-simultaneous) creation of a new governing body, being the Ministry of Magic, at this time? And if not, why or how did the Ministry come to be founded?

EDIT: I have since found a link in the Harry Potter Lexicon which gives an alternative date for the creation of the Ministry of Magic of "in the late 1600s" (though I am not sure where it sources this information from). While this differs from the date of 1620s given above, it would fit in broadly with the observation that a change in governance of the magical community (the Ministry succeeding the Wizards' Council) must have occurred somewhat in line with historical events that greatly changed the nature of governance in the Muggle Society at this time - see also The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights (1689); the latter of which ended the absolute power of the monarchy, which no English or British monarch has held since. Again, is there a possible Wizarding connection to developments in Muggle governance which might explain the foundation of the Ministry of Magic?

  • 5
    Ooh, good question. – alexwlchan May 3 '14 at 13:13
  • what would really help is if somebody knows of, or can find, some details of how the Wizards' Council was structured, what its functions were, how its members attained their postion and derived their legitimacy, and how the Council exerted its influence on the magical community. With that we might start to draw at least some inferences about why the Ministry is (or at least was seen to be) a better or more viable governing body. – The Giant of Lannister May 3 '14 at 21:05
  • What little information I can come up with references the ineffectual and somewhat farcical attempts of the Council to organise and integrate non-Wizards into the magical community - although I don't think the Ministry of Magic has since done any better on that score! It seems a stretch to suggest these misfortunes alone led to a need for a new style of government or leadership in Wizarding Britain. But maybe there is something in it! – The Giant of Lannister May 3 '14 at 21:10
  • dat research... – sight ward May 4 '14 at 9:26
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Dating the Ministry

The year (prior to) 1629 for the formation of the Ministry comes from information from the Famous Wizards Card of Balfour Blane (d. 1629), the founder of the Committee on Experimental Charms (from one of the HP videogames). However, it is easily possible that the Committee has existed in continuation from the Wizards' Council, which makes this information spotty at best, for dating the Ministry.

The surest we can say, is that the entity referred to as the Ministry of Magic existed in 1689 (the date of signing of the International Statute of Secrecy).


The term 'Ministry Of Magic' could be a non-contemporary term

In RL history, we have a List of British Ministries from around 1707, when the word itself only came to be used in that capacity in the 1900s. The man often known as the 'First Prime Minister of the UK' today, Ropert Walpole (~1700s), was never titled 'Prime Minister' during his lifetime. The office of the PM was officially created only in the 1878.

So similarly, it is entirely possible that the entity in 1692 referred to by Wizards in 1990s as the 'Ministry of Magic' could have been referred to as something entirely different (or even continued to be referred to as Wizards' Council, just with a new structure/purpose/duties) by its contemporaries, but is referred to 'today' as the Ministry of Magic for purposes of continuity or simplicity. The term Ministry of Magic could be a fairly modern term, analogous to Muggle usage, an example of the rare convenient Muggle artefact adopted by Wizards (especially since the Minister of Magic is legally supposed to liaise with the Muggle Minister)


The formation of the 'Ministry of Magic' is very likely be due to the same factors that lead to the signing of the International Statute of Secrecy

From Dumbledore's notes on Tales of Beedle the Bard, we know that the Witch-hunts and Witch-burning were the leading cause of the introduction of the International Statute of Secrecy.

From Muggle History, we know that

There were [witch] trials in the 15th and early 16th centuries, but then the witch scare went into decline, before becoming a major issue again and peaking in the 17th century. What had previously been a belief that some people possessed supernatural abilities (which were sometimes used to protect the people) now became a sign of a pact between the people with supernatural abilities and the devil.

So the 1600s were seeing a sudden increase in Witch-hysteria all over Europe and in the Americas (the Salem Witch Trials happened in 1692, just 3 years after the signing of the Statute, and the year it went into effect)

It seems unlikely that the first step any population would have taken to combat an issue so immediate and close to their well-being would be to sign an International Agreement. It is more likely some local measures would have been tried first, and then measures that showed best success were adopted by the International community, and the decision made legally binding.

In fact, one (if not the primary) reason suggested for the signing of the Statute by one of the questions in the third W.O.M.B.A.T test is

failure of Ministry of Magic Delegation to Muggle King and Queen (William and Mary) begging for protection under Muggle law.

So, it seems likely that

  1. There is the increased anti-Magic sentiment and violence (with newfound equation of 'witches' with 'The Devil' in the 1600s all over Europe and America;

  2. Leading to the the Wizards' governing body of the time needing to expand its duties to include ways to combat this hysteria;

  3. which leads to this body (or other similar bodies of Wizards in other nations) to decide/realize that the best way to do so was to adopt a policy of isolation,

  4. which leads to the signing of International Statute of Secrecy,

  5. upholding which, is the main responsibility of the modern Ministry of Magic. This leads to a continuous identity / tradition from the Modern Ministry back to the 1600's organization and a break in tradition with the pre-1600s organization (aka. why modern Wizards might refer to that updated organization as 'the Ministry of Magic' in the present, but not the organization that preceded it.)

  • I like aspects of this answer (the point about the usage of anachronistic of "non-contemporary" terms which does bring into question the dating on this) but I feel that the third point is maybe a bit of a stretch. I think the big missing piece is why was the name changed at all (for me it would make more sense if the name was to change due to a) the governing organisation being completely different to what came before and/or b) to symbolise a breaking with previous tradition, not a continuation). Overall though, well thought-out answer so plus one. – The Giant of Lannister Jul 30 '14 at 18:06
  • @TheGiantofLannister Regarding #3, the name change is symbolization a break in tradition - just one between Wizard Council pre-Magic-is-always-evil hysteria and post-that. It 'really' becomes named the Ministry when that term becomes common; but by that time there is no change in organization so it starts getting back-dated as the Ministry from the point of change onwards. Does that make sense? – Shisa Aug 2 '14 at 5:27
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From the Pottermore article Ministers for Magic:

The Ministry of Magic was formally established in 1707 with the appointment of the very first man to hold the title 'Minister for Magic', Ulick Gamp.

Prior to 1707, the Wizards' Council was the longest serving (though not the only) body to govern the magical community in Britain. After the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692, however, the wizarding community needed a more highly structured, organised and more complex governing structure than they had hitherto used, to support, regulate and communicate with a community in hiding.

-1

I think that the Ministry was created around the wizards council when the growing population of wizards required a more complete government. At first it would be just to give the council a real power over the people, as they would previously have no real law enforcement. Then when the stature of secrecy was passed, it absorbed the wizards council and got full power.This was because the political infighting and civilian violence required a tighter grip on both parties, the council and the public. Without control, the Ministry needed to became more powerful(absorbing the council) possibly with a fight and averting a full blown civil war.

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    Do you have any canon confirmation of this? – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 3 '14 at 14:40
  • Well, if you look through the series you can find a lot of evidence that wizards did not agree on the stature of secrecy, but otherwise I am just theorizing using my understanding of history and examination of the "current" wizard world. – user25854 May 3 '14 at 19:54
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    I am wondering what sources there are that suggest a growing population of wizards in this time? There is also so far as I can tell no information that suggests that Wizards' Council and the Ministry co-existed together at any point, the latter body is always described as the successor to the former. It's possible that the change to the Ministry was a sort of political "rebranding" exercise, with the organisation changing name but the people in power remaining the same, but I'm not aware of concrete evidence of this, and I can't see why that would occur without any good reason. – The Giant of Lannister May 3 '14 at 20:39
  • what would really help is if somebody knows of, or can find, some details of how the Wizards' Council was structured, what its functions were, how its members attained their postion and derived their legitimacy, and how the Council exerted its influence on the magical community. With that we might start to draw at least some inferences about why the Ministry is (or at least was seen to be) a better or more viable governing body – The Giant of Lannister May 3 '14 at 21:11

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