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 157 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.


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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The break-up of Czechoslovakia and Scottish independence

As the White Paper Scotland's Future is published, Dr Kieran Williams, of Drake University, examines Czechoslovakia's 'Velvet Divorce' of 1992 to reflect on the major issues for Scottish independence today. He argues that dissolving a federation (to create the Czech and Slovak republics) is very different from removing one part of an ongoing union - Scotland gaining independence from the UK.

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Why have no bankers gone to jail?

Dr James Taylor argues that political will, not tougher legislation, is needed to restore trust in the City and the state. Effective legislation already exists - dating from the nineteenth century and strengthened since 1900, contrary to popular perceptions of the Victorian era's uncontrolled capitalism. The Victorians took transgression seriously - with important economic and social effects, which today's policy makers should be aware of.

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Surveillance, privacy and history

With the new Penny Post and Telegraph technology, the nineteenth century experienced a transformation in mass communications - and invented a problem that the early twenty-first century is struggling to resolve, as highlighted by the Edward Snowden revelations, according to Professor David Vincent, of the Open University.

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Addressing food poverty in Ireland: historical perspectives

Debates about nutritional health in nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland, a period of severe economic decline and poverty, offers food for thought for today's policy makers, argues Dr Ian Miller, of the University of Ulster.

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Governments and 'soft power' in international affairs: Britain and the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics

In 1980 an Olympic boycott offered a viable means of 'fighting' the Cold War but as Dr Paul Corthorn, of Queen's University Belfast, explains, this attempt at using 'soft power' failed because of mishandling by the Thatcher Government.

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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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