The end of an era: The Oxford School of IR and British Trade Unions

Change in Trade Unions by Roger Undy, Bill McCarthy, Valerie Ellis and Tony Halmos was originally published in 1981 just after the end of the strongest decade for the UK trade union movement, with membership reaching its height in 1979. It is being republished in December 2022, which provides an ideal opportunity to revisit its findings on how trade unions really operated then and what are the lessons for today’s very different industrial relations scene. It also provides a full opportunity to review the approach at that time to the study of trade unions and industrial relations by what came to be called the "Oxford School".  Two of the four authors of the 1981 book will be on the panel, together with a trade union leader from the time and a specialist in the work of the "Oxford School" of industrial relations. 


  • John Edmonds (Chair- History and Policy, Institute of Historical Research and former General Secretary, GMB)
  • Peter Ackers (Loughborough University)
  • Valerie Ellis (Formerly Assistant General Secretary, IPCS)
  • Tony Halmos (Policy Institute, King’s College, London)

Recorded on 7 March 2023 in Seante House, University of London.


Crown Confidential: Access to Historical Records about the Royal Family

Are the British Royal Family the real enemies of history? Over the decades they have actively suppressed uncomfortable narratives about themselves. Hundreds of files in the national and royal archives remain inaccessible to the general public, files that many would argue are of public interest. The result? Holes in our country's history. 

These are some of the conclusions from the team at the magazine Index on Censorship, who carried out an investigation into royal historical censorship for their Winter issue. As part of the launch of the magazine, a panel of speakers will discuss the findings alongside their experiences of trying to access historical archives. This will be a lively discussion and one with heightened importance following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September and ahead of the coronation of Charles III in the spring.

Speaking on the panel will be:

The event will be chaired by Jemimah Steinfeld, editor-in-chief at Index on Censorship.


After P&O – Will Labour’s New Deal change things?

Research by the Trades Union Congress has shown that 3.7 million workers in the UK – one in nine of the total workforce – are in insecure work. Zero hours contracts have proliferated across the last decade, while the recent P&O scandal has highlighted the importance of security at work. What would a Labour government do differently? The party has set out proposals for a New Deal for Working People. What impact would this New Deal have, and what does the experience of previous attempts by Labour to extend employment rights suggest for the prospects of change?


  • Justin Madders MP (Shadow Employment Rights Minister)
  • Professor Keith Ewing (King’s College London and President of the Institute of Employment Rights)
  • Verity Davidge (Director of Policy, Make UK)

Chair: James Parker (Department of History, University of York)

The Autumn 2022 Financial Crisis in Historical Perspective

The scale and severity of the financial and political crisis triggered by the Truss administration’s ‘mini-budget’ of 23 September 2022 have left commentators searching for comparable emergencies. ‘Black Wednesday’ 1992 has frequently been mentioned. Those with longer memories have cast their minds back to the Sterling Crises of 1967 and 1976 or the reversal of the 1972 ‘dash-for-growth’. Comparisons have even been drawn with the Suez Crisis of 1956, when a sudden and humiliating reversal of foreign policy led to the downfall of prime minister, Anthony Eden. 

In this special discussion co-hosted by History & Policyand the Mile End Institute, an expert panel discussed the historical precedents and try to identify the lessons they might offer to contemporary policy-makers.


  • Duncan Weldon (British economics correspondent for The Economist)
  • Tim Bale (Professor of Politics in the School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary, University of London)

Chair: Philip Murphy (Director, History & Policy)

History and Journalism

This event took the form of an online round-table discussion focusing on the connections between History and print Journalism and how each field can benefit from collaborating with the other. The event aims to bring together practitioners from both fields, especially those with experience of bridging the divide. Our distinguished panellists aim to address the following questions:  

  1. Philip L. Graham, former President and Publisher of the Washington Post said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” What does this mean in practice and what similarities and differences are there between the work of the historian and the journalist? 
  2. History-making is a recurrent theme in today’s journalism, with frequent resort to words like ‘historic’ and ‘unprecedented’. To what extent does this suggest a genuine interaction with History, and does it risk distorting our understanding of the past? 
  3. Could both journalists and historians benefit from acquiring some of each other’s professional skills? 
  4. Journalists are increasingly drawn to so-called 'culture war' topics - legacies of slavery, statues, national memory/ identity, gender/ sexual identities etc: how should historians engage with this and what are the dangers of being drawn into polarised or stereotyped positions, or even becoming the target of attacks?

Chair: Philip Murphy (Director of History & Policy).

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Alan Rusbridger (Formerly editor-in-chief of The Guardian and Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, he currently serves on Meta’s Oversight Board).
  • Anna Whitelock (Historian. Executive Dean of the School of Communication and Creativity, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Modern Monarchy, City University of London)
  • Adrian Bingham (Director of Sheffield University’s Centre for the Study of Journalism and History).
  • Simon Heffer (Historian, journalist, author and political commentator).

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