What we do and why

History & Policy publishes high quality historical research freely accessible online and creates opportunities for historians, policy makers and journalists to connect. We do this to demonstrate the relevance of history to contemporary policy making and to increase the influence of historical research over current policy. We also advise and assist historians wanting to engage more effectively with policy makers and media.

Too often policy reflects unexamined historical assumptions and clichés. History is incorrectly assumed to be less relevant to current policy than the social and natural sciences. At best, policy without history fails to learn past lessons and, at worst, repeats past mistakes. Given the opportunity, historians can shed light on the causes of current problems - and suggest innovative solutions. History & Policy is committed to overcoming a reluctance among some policy makers to 'let historians in'.

Support for History & Policy

'Working in BBC News and Current Affairs, I know that historical perspective can greatly improve the quality of debate on contemporary issues and policy formation. But it can be hard for many people outside the academic community to reach the latest research in an accessible form. History & Policy is one of the very few initiatives I have come across that bridges that gap in an effective way.'
Chris Bowlby, BBC Radio 4 Current Affairs

'Everyone in public life should be aware of the History & Policy project and its activities, and make use of this unique resource. History has a huge amount to teach us about how we got to where we are and how we might move forward. The historians involved in History & Policy have demonstrated this particularly effectively in relation to pensions reform.'
Frank Field MP

'The Parliament and Constitution Centre of the House of Commons Library has enjoyed working with History & Policy in locating speakers who can offer a historical perspective to contemporary events, and so inform the political process.'
Oonagh Gay, Parliament and Constitution Centre

'I have found the History & Policy papers to be both enjoyable and very useful, especially those on local government reform and policing, which are areas I work in. I strongly believe that policymakers would perform better if their thinking was more informed by history and am keen that the IPPR does so in its own research.'
Guy Lodge, Institute for Public Policy Research

'If politicians would only browse here, historians hope, they might learn from what has gone before and stop reinventing so many square wheels. They would boast less about 'new' ideas and their own 'successes' compared with the past.'
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

'Awareness of what went before is of considerable worth, and there's a growing sense that policymakers and public managers make decisions in ignorance of previous experience with the same subject matter. History & Policy is a grouping of professional historians coordinated from the Centre for Contemporary British History in the University of London, determined to remind the present that the administrative and policy past matters.'
David Walker, Guardian Public magazine

back to top