Policy Papers

History & Policy papers are written by expert historians, based on peer-reviewed research. They offer historical insights into current policy issues ranging from Afghanistan and Iraq, climate change and internet surveillance to family dynamics, alcohol consumption and health reforms. For historians interested in submitting a paper, please see the editorial guidelines.

More than 162 papers are freely searchable by theme, author or keyword, with new papers published regularly. Where possible, we publish new papers to coincide with relevant policy developments. If you are a policy maker or journalist and would like to contact one of our historians, please contact us.


Mentally ill older people aren’t ‘past it’

Ageism and the repeat failure of governments to match rhetoric with resources for mental health services for older people means provision today is patchy and under-funded, argues psychiatrist and historian, Dr Claire Hilton. And this despite recognition dating back to the 1940s of the needs and benefits of treatment. 

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Maplin: the Treasury and London’s third airport in the 1970s

Debate in the 1970s about London’s third airport offers interesting parallels for today’s policy makers grappling with the need to increase airport capacity. Like ‘Boris Island,’ the proposed Thames estuary airport, Maplin Sands, was abandoned in 1974. Dr Duncan Needham, of Cambridge University, considers the many factors in this decision and suggests that the solution today may be hiding in plain sight. 

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Prostitution and the law in historical perspective: a dialogue

A recent Parliamentary report on prostitution and the law recommended making it an offence to buy sex – which this week Northern Ireland voted for. Setting this fraught debate in historical context, Samantha Caslin and Julia Laite offer different interpretations and responses to the latest proposals. 

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Which way out of Ukraine - Versailles, Yalta or Vienna?

Russia’s renewed ‘great power’ approach to foreign policy – exemplified by Ukraine - should galvanise a rethink of European security institutions argues Dr Alexander Titov, of Queen's University, Belfast, who considers earlier models of international order for an inclusive and flexible new system. 

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Colour-blind conservatism and public policy from Reinhold Niebuhr to Obama

During the Civil Rights Movement, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr predicted the lag in racial equality that continues in America today. In assessing Niebuhr’s influence, Professor Gideon Mailer, of the University of Minnesota, argues that his ideas – appropriated across the political spectrum - could help combat inequalities in America today.  

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What can the 40th anniversary of Sunningdale reveal about dealing with Northern Ireland’s past?

As the 20th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire approaches, and 40 years after Sunningdale, the first power-sharing agreement, Dr Cillian McGrattan, of the University of Ulster, considers the role of history in dealing with the legacies of the Troubles. 

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How should we commemorate wars? Lessons from the nineteenth century

Commemoration of war has always been politicised. Nineteenth-century experiences in Britain and Europe show that limited state involvement in war remembrance enables meaningful expression of multiple memories by a cross-section of society. Dr Karine Varley of Strathclyde University argues that the changing treatment of the dead during the Napoleonic Wars and the Franco-Prussian War offer less useful lessons for policy makers today. 

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Centralism versus localism? Democracy versus efficiency? The perennial challenges of Scottish local government organisation

Whatever the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum, local government looks set for reform. Criticised for its disconnect with citizens today, Scotland's local government was not always so. The four major reorganisations since 1833 offer useful lessons and important lessons for today, argues Michael Pugh.

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Germany 1945-1949: a case study in post-conflict reconstruction

After making his famous speech to troops on Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945, Field-Marshall Montgomery directed Britain's 'benevolent occupation' of Germany. Chris Knowles, of the Institute of Contemporary British History at King's College London, examines the record of Montgomery and his successors in the British Zone, 1945-49, and considers the lessons for Britain in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

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Health reforms, opinion polls and surveys: myths and realities

Attitudes to NHS reform today are shaped by a largely imagined past of poor healthcare prior to the NHS, according to Dr Nick Hayes in a new H&P policy paper. An Ipsos Mori poll in conjunction with King's College London confirmed Dr Hayes' research - finding a fear of reform, particularly the involvement of private providers in the NHS.

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About Us


H&P is a unique collaboration between the Institute of Contemporary British History at King's College London and the University of Cambridge.

We are the only project in the UK providing access to an international network of more than 500 historians with a broad range of expertise. H&P offers a range of resources for historians, policy makers and journalists.

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