This article examines relationships between historical administrative systems and civil service politicization across Europe. I argue that to appreciate when and how history matters, we need to consider public service bargains struck between politicians and senior bureaucrats. Doing so complicates the relationship between historical and current administrative systems: a bureaucratic, as opposed to patrimonial, 18th-century state infrastructure is necessary for the depoliticization of ministerial bureaucracies in present-day Western Europe. However, the relationship does not hold in East-Central Europe since administrative histories are tumultuous and fractured. Combining data from across the European continent, I provide evidence in support of these propositions.