Opinion Articles

H&P encourages historians to use their expertise to shed light on issues of the day. If you are interested in submitting an opinion piece for publication, please see our editorial guidelines. We currently have 326 Opinion Articles listed by date and they are all freely searchable by theme, author or keyword.

The reclosure of files on the royal family: some questions for the National Archives

Inspired by our recent opinion article by Alison McClean, historian and royal biographer Andrew Lownie writes about his own experience of the reclosure of files on the royal family at the National Archives and poses some urgent questions for the Keeper of TNA. We need to know on whose authority these reclosures are being made and why there is not greater transparency and accountability regarding this process.

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“Access under review”: Freedom of Information, Data Protection, and the Disappearing Archive

Since 2012, thousands of previously open documents have been removed from public access under the Reclosure Policy of the National Archives (TNA). The full extent of this withdrawal of previously decalssified material is not apparent from TNA's annual reports on reclosure. The process itself is extremely opaque and appears to involve the application of the exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act in ways that run contrary to the spirit of that legislation. Historians should be concerned by this development.

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Policy at the mercy of fear: Déjà vu and the open prisons

Absconds from prison are at a historic low. The prison system in England and Wales does not offer an ‘open prison’ sentence, but individuals may be transferred to one of the 12 open prisons as part of their preparation for release. Since its inception, the open prison has been at the mercy of capricious policy. This tension is still apparent today. Events in 2022 led to the Justice Secretary imposing stricter transfer criteria; since then, the policy has been abandoned.

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The Complicated History of Remembrance

Recent controversies over whether protest is permissible on ‘Remembrance Weekend’ have rested on an oversimplified view of Remembrance as an unchanging, sacralised and outside politics. In fact the commemoration of war in twentieth and twenty first century Britian has continuously evolved, subtly and sometimes unsubtly influenced by contemporary politics. The continued relevance of Remembrance can only be ensured by such adaptation, and is threatened by heavy-handed attempts to impose a unitary meaning.

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Reality check: Russell Brand, survivors of rape and the criminal justice system

The historically problematic relationship between the criminal Justice System and complainants of rape surfaced again with the recent allegations made on the comedian and TV presented Russel Brand.

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Rishi Sunak’s Seven Bins

Rishi Sunak's statement on changes to the government's policy on Net Zero contained a headline-grabbing pledge to scrap plans to force households to have seven different recycling bins. While the prime minister clearly expects this to play well with the electorate, history suggests that the public are ready to adapt their habits and that there are dangers in playing politics with waste disposal.

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1924, Keir Starmer and New Labour

Kier Starmer appears to be looking more and more to the New Labour era to guide him to election victory. He may well be right to do so, since 1997-2010 was a period of sustained electoral success for Labour, unparalleled before or since.

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The price of everything and the value of nothing: museums, thefts and British society

Media coverage of the recent alleged thefts from the British Museum has focused on the monetary value of the missing artefacts rather than their historical and cultural significance. This in turn reflects the commercialisation of the museum sector. A greater engagement with the scholarly community could enhance institutions' awareness and appreciation of their holdings and hence reduce the risk of items disappearing almost unnoticed. 

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Arming Ukraine: lessons from the European conflicts of the twentieth century

While it is tempting to read the Russian attack on Ukraine in terms of a revival of Cold War geopolitics, we need to go further back - to the failed appeasement of Nazi Germany and to the Spanish Civil War - to find more pointed lessons for how the West should respond to Putin's aggression.

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Suez, Brexit, and the Future of the Special Relationship

Comparisons with the Suez Crisis of 1956 regularly appear in the press. Parallels have been drawn with Brexit as a foreign policy failure of similar or greater magnitude. Suez had major implications for Anglo-American relations. But the recent meeting between Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak suggests the transatlantic bond remains strong. So how does Suez help us understand the changing nature of this relationship?

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H&P is based at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, University of London.

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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