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 308 Opinion Articles listed by date and they are all freely searchable by theme, author or keyword.


Is ‘Social Value 2032’ assured? Possible lessons from angry Edwardian shopkeepers for the Social Value Act’s future

2022 saw the 10th anniversary of the Public Services Act (sometimes referred to as the Social Value Act) which obliged public authorities to consider how they might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of an area when awarding contracts. While the objective of enshrining 'social value' in law is commendable, the early twentieth-century experience of the British Co-operative Movement (the Co-op), which also sought to promote broader social benefits, suggests that the project might create unintended consequences including a politicised movement of opposition.

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‘Very brave, Minister’, Sir Humphrey Appleby

Commentators were drawing comparisons with the 1972 dash for growth even before Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng stood up to deliver his ‘fiscal event’ on 23 September. In March 1972 his Conservative predecessor Anthony Barber injected an estimated 2 per cent of additional demand into the economy, primarily by raising income tax thresholds. History has not been kind to the Heath/Barber boom.

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How Seriously Should We Take Universal Basic Income?

Is universal basic income (UBI) a policy idea whose time has come? Recent historical scholarship now enables us to comprehend the twentieth-century evolution of this and similar ideas. UBI is intriguing in having vociferous backers drawn both from the libertarian right—such as, notably, Milton Friedman in the form of his negative income tax proposal—but also from the emancipation-embracing left—such as Michel Foucault and Phillipe Van Parijs. In this article, scepticism is expressed about whether UBI can seriously help to address issues of inequality, as opposed to preventing the poverty that liberal market economies tend insistently to generate.

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How to be an Island: A Long-View Look at Britain’s Borders and National Identity

As Britain negotiates the issue of its national borders in the post-Brexit era, its sense of national identity and place in the world continues to be shaped by a seductive but at the same time ambivolent and contradictory island imaginary, one that has been shaped over centuries.

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How Elizabethan law once protected the poor from the high cost of living – and led to unrivalled economic prosperity

In the closing years of Elizabeth I’s reign, England saw the emergence of arguably the world’s first effective welfare state. Laws were established which successfully protected people from rises in food prices. More than 400 years later, in the closing years of Elizabeth II’s reign, the UK once again faces perilous spikes in living costs. Perhaps today’s government could learn something from its legislative ancestors.

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Devolution and its discontents

The Conservative government insists that modifying the Northern Ireland Protocol will entice the Democratic Unionist Party back into Stormont and restore the devolved Assembly. But the current crisis highlights deeper unionist disillusionment with power-sharing.

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The Rwanda scheme and the uses and abuses of the Commonwealth

The British government's scheme to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda has been widely critised. But an element that has attracted surprisingly little attention is the Commonwealth context of the plan. Having only recently urged Rwanda to improve its human rights record in line with the Commonwealth Charter, the Johnson administration is now citing the fact that Rwanda is about to host the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as evidence that the country is a safe destination for deportees.

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At “tipping point”: New report signals limited drive within the Home Office properly to address the Windrush scandal

 A much anticipated independent review published on the Windrush scandal last week found that the Home Office was still failing to learn properly from its past mistakes. This article argues that the government needs to overcome its selective amnesia and not only learn from but apologise for its treatment of the victims of the scandal and engage in a genuine process of reconciliation.

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Historical messages emerging from Ukraine: autocrats, information, and the cost of freedom

Although the invasion of Ukraine will evoke memories of the suffering imposed on its people by the regime of Joseph Stalin, in an age of smartphones Vladimir Putin lacks Stalin's ability to control the flow of information. Members of the Russian military know they are likely to be held to account, and that their actions in Ukraine will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

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A golden high wage future?

The Government may succeed in 'taking back control'. But its ability to combine this with a new economic model of high real wages and improved productivity, heralded in the Prime Minister's speech to the Conservative Party Conference last week, appears more doubtful.

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