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.
Currently, 244 papers are freely searchable by theme, author or keyword, with new papers published regularly. Where possible, we publish papers to coincide with relevant policy developments. If you are a policy maker, civil society practitioner or journalist and would like to contact one of our historians, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The British government’s response to the memorialisation of mass death in the twentieth century was fraught with challenges which have parallels with the debates surrounding the remembrance of Covid-19. Here, the First World War and its aftermath are used as a case study to show how the exclusion of certain groups from memorial activities in the past have had substantial long-term implications for their cultural inclusion in memorial events in the present. Through an examination of memorial items sent by the government directly to families of people who were killed at war, this paper recommends a careful approach to mass memorialisation which is empathetic to the individually bereaved and inclusive of the diverse experiences of grief.
Creative repurposing has been presented as a cornerstone of the government’s agenda for regional development and the regeneration of towns and small cities across the UK. Yet there remains some uncertainty about what it really means, both in theory and practice. This paper presents case studies of three English locations (Barking & Dagenham, Coventry, Sunderland) which explore that meaning and point to the opportunities and challenges involved. It argues that the practice of ‘creative repurposing’ should be understood to incorporate intangible heritage such as local histories, traditions, and sense of place, as well as the built environment, and has greater potential when these aspects are combined.
The Bank of England’s inflation target is 2.0%. But by July 2022, CPI inflation had reached more than 10%. Some forecasters are predicting price rises could reach 11% or more by October. To combat the great inflation of 2022, the paper recommends (i) the use of VAT cuts and energy-price caps to reduce the inflation rate to soften the coming monetary-policy shock to help preserve wider financial stability, (ii) the maintenance of central-bank independence, (iii) a review of the mandate of the Bank of England and (iv) the consideration of other models, economic metrics and perspectives to avoid a repeat of the “groupthink” that resulted in the inflation overshoot of 2021-22.
UK energy policy does not put enough emphasis on creating sustainable economic growth using intermittent energy technology. The Government’s published energy digitalisation strategy favours a planned energy economy rather than a free market in low carbon electrical energy. The success of the telecommunications sector showed that assertive regulation can lead to innovation in a competitive market.
UK school student unions, led by adolescents, fought for more democratic schools from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Since the turn of the millennium, ‘pupil participation’ – giving students a say in how schools are run – has been formally adopted as a goal for UK schools. The main mechanism through which this is supposed to happen is school councils. However, numerous research reports on school councils since 2002 have shown that the majority of UK secondary school students don’t feel that they ‘get a say’ in schools.
The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (commonly called ‘the Protocol’), implemented as part of the UK–EU Withdrawal Agreement, has been recently linked to various historical issues in N. Ireland by the UK prime minister, foreign secretary, and other government ministers who have called for a significant revision to its terms, if not its abolition. The Protocol has been irresponsibly treated at the highest level of politics across the UK, such that it has now become a political football. Government ministers have played a major role in constructing ‘threats’ posed by the Protocol. It is the political construction of the Protocol, rather than the mechanism itself, which makes it difficult to fix.
The proliferation of misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic poses significant threats to public health and social cohesion. In order to determine the most effective response to these phenomena, policy makers need to understand their appeal. The historical record offers a powerful means of distinguishing between those responses that are rooted in human psychology and transcend contemporary circumstances, and those that are genuinely new. It suggests significant continuities with the past, and points to policy responses which are mitigative rather than preventative.
Working with the private sector to export British healthcare expertise abroad is nothing new. But history suggests that if the NHS is to be used as an expansive form of soft power and export earnings for 'Global Britain', more adequate safeguards and transparent avenues of public scrutiny need to be in place to ensure this process prioritises mutual healthcare improvement over revenue raising.
US think tanks, as intermediary organisations that have become highly efficient at funding themselves and marketing their experts, potentially offer lessons in how historians in the UK might communicate more effectively with policy makers. Yet American think tanks would themselves benefit from more actively harnessing academic expertise, as closer association with universities would help alleviate their financial vulnerabilities and enhance their public credibility.
The transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was criminalised in the Soviet Union. Sex education materials classified STIs as antisocial illnesses that were contracted by people engaged in deviant or immoral behaviour. The Soviet experience suggests that the stigmatisation of patients and criminalisation of disease transmission can disincentivise seeking treatment, impose barriers to accessing healthcare services, and contribute to rising rates of infection.
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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.