Policy Papers

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, 249 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 historyandpolicy@london.ac.uk.

You can download H&P policy papers directly from the Apple iBooks store to your iPhone, iPad or Mac. We also have an Amazon Kindle version to download to your PC for transfer to your Kindle via USB cable. Please consult your Kindle manual for further details.

Planning for the Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery and African Emancipation in 2033-38

As we approach the bicentenary of slavery’s abolition and African emancipation (2033-2038), crucial questions are surfacing concerning how the emergence of archival evidence and new research findings can be incorporated effectively into national and local memorialisation. Dr Michael D. Bennet and Dr James S. Dawkins argue for the creation of an independent historical advisory panel to help ensure that memorialisation across Britain avoids repeating the shortfalls of previous efforts at remembrance and facilitates a more linked-up programme of memorialisation between Britain and Caribbean nations.

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Asylum Barges in historical context: Britain’s prison hulks expose fault lines in today’s policy

As part of the Home Office policy of housing asylum-seekers on barges, the first 15 refugees boarded the Bibby Stockholm on 7 August 2023. The initiative invites a number of comparisons with the use of prison hulks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These historical echoes suggest that the current policy may be less cheap, popular and temporary than the government seems to assume.

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Income Tax rates and popular attitudes: Lessons from post-war British history

It has become an accepted view that popular attitudes to tax became more negative in the 1970s and have remained so ever since. However, this is not supported by a recent study of the relevant evidence. There has been little overall change since the late 1940s. The public have consistently prioritised fairness in taxation and have also been concerned to maintain public services. 

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Never having it so good in the twenty-first century?

The idea of economic growth has been central to British political debate since the 1950s. Professor Jim Tomlinson explores why this is increasingly problematic, and calls for altenative measures of economic welfare.

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Improving Maternity Care through Women’s Voices: The Women’s Health Strategy Continues a Long Process of Advocacy

The Women’s Health Strategy for England (WHS), published in July 2022 by the Department of Health and Social Care, acknowledged that women’s health has been long neglected.The evidence highlighted gender health inequalities across the country, the need to improve women’s access to medical services for female-specific illnesses and to address the intersectional disparities that affect women: age, ethnicity, disability and socioeconomic background. The importance of women’s voices being heard and responded to in determining future policies was also strongly emphasised throughout the WHS. This paper is focussed on maternity care, highlighted by the WHS as falling short in terms of provision and responses to individual women’s needs. The authors also highlight the crucial role of women themselves in drawing attention to the poor quality of care and provision in maternity services and the strategies they used to amplify their voices.

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How to Remember the Victims of Covid-19: Experiences of the First World War

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. 

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‘Creative Repurposing’ and Levelling Up: History, Heritage and Urban Renewal

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.

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Reforming the Bank of England to tame inflation and boost financial stability: Lessons from two centuries of British financial history

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.

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Digital Energy: a history lesson from telecoms

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.

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Should school students get a say? Why fifty years of ‘pupil participation’ hasn’t changed the UK education system – and what we might do differently

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.

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About Us

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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