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, 240 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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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.
DEFRA's long-awaited awaited Environment Bill, currently passing through the final stages of Parliamentary scrutiny, echoes some of the initiatives implemented by the Ministry of Supply during the Second World War. An understanding of that wartime experience draws attention to lessons and warnings that are applicable today.
Non-executive appointmentees the NHS have an important role as umpires when conflicts arise between clinicians and managers. Yet their appointment has posed a series of problems, and in the 1980s the process became politicised. The creation of the NHS Appointments Commission in 2001 by New Labour was an attempt to create a more rhobust system of selection and evaluation. Recent reforms to the health service threaten the return of patronage-based appointments.
Britain’s long and scandal-ridden struggle against ‘Old Corruption’, which prevailed for much of the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, is instructive in the light of recent scandals concerning public appointments and public contracts.
The curative model of health influenced the development of mental health services during the first years of the NHS and therefore social care came to be viewed as supporting clinical services and was only peripherally involved in the planning of health services. Clinical services had their ‘1948 moment’, but social work did not, experiencing only gradual and piecemeal reform.
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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.