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.

Currently, 164 papers are freely searchable by theme, author or keyword, with new papers published regularly. Where possible, we publish papers to coincide with relevant policy developments. If you are a policy maker, civil society practitioner or journalist and would like to contact one of our historians, please contact fiona.holland@kcl.ac.uk.

You can download 2014 H&P policy papers directly from the Apple iBooks store to your iPhone, iPad or Mac. We also have an Amazon Kindle version to download to your PC for transfer to your Kindle via USB cable. Please consult your Kindle manual for further details.


Magna Carta and contemporary constitutional change

The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is an opportunity to enrich constitutional debates today argues Dr Andrew Blick, who challenges misconceptions about English and UK constitutional history. 

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Ireland and the perils of fixed exchange rates

The Great Irish Famine of the 1840s and the twentieth-century Irish financial crisis might seem worlds apart. But they share key macroeconomic policies that exacerbated the respective economic situations, according to Charles Read, of Cambridge University. Using the macroeconomic concept the ‘trilemma’, Read compares decisions taken during the famine and the recent financial crisis to understand what went wrong – and offer lessons for policy makers today, particularly in countries considering joining a currency union. 

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Diagnosing a flight from care: medical migration and ‘dirty work’ in the NHS

Policy makers should recognise the vital contribution of migrant medics to Britain's healthcare system and support them, argues Dr Julian Simpson, of Manchester University. Since 1948 the NHS has been dependent on overseas-trained doctors who fill jobs vacated by emigrating British medics. 

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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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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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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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