Policy engagement at local level: a workshop for historians

Policy engagement goes beyond Whitehall and the Today programme

Friday 8 September 2017

University of Leeds

This workshop was created in collaboration with Dr Laura King, Professor Will Gould and Dr Dave Churchill at the University of Leeds, and funding was kindly provided by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, University of Leeds. The aim was to to explore how historians can engage with local policy making structures and local practitioners. With the pressure on to do work with impact, many academics look naturally towards national power structures – and sometimes overlook opportunities on their doorsteps. 

The day featured panel discussions of historians with track records of engagement, alongside local policy makers and practitioners. We chose to arrange the panels around two particular policy themes - although many other themes could have been chosen. Participants then discussed the inputs of the panels in the workshop session and began to work out how their own research might fit into a local policy context.

The audience was a particularly strong mix of levels of seniority, from PhD students to Professors, which made for a stimulating and collegiate atmosphere, and feedback for the event was excellent.

Panel 1: Citizens and Cities

David Churchill, Law, University of Leeds – ‘Data or Concepts? Applications of Historical Research on Public Parks in Leeds’

Kevin Grady, former Director of Leeds Civic Trust - ‘A Leeds Historian’s Influence on Planning and Development in Leeds, 1987-2016’

Simon Gunn, History, University of Leicester - 'Applied history: conservation, planning and policy-making in Leicester’

William Gould, History, University of Leeds – ‘The Right to Information movement in India: Using History to work on problems of local governance’

Panel 2: Families and Health

Jenny Crane, History, University of Warwick - 'Comparing National and Local Approaches to Public Engagement: Children, families and health in history and policy' 

Laura King, History, University of Leeds – ‘Living with Dying: History, policy and practice around dying and bereavement in Leeds’

Antonia Lovelace, Leeds Museums and Galleries – ‘Dying Matters in the Museum’

Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health, Leeds City Council – ‘What does the history of the Medical Officers of Health in Leeds tell us about present and future Leeds?’


What role do specifically historical methodologies, approaches, ideas and knowledge have in policy at a local level?

Round-up and reflections

Alix Mortimer, History & Policy

Sample feedback:

"Really great event - so important to have honest conversation about challenges of engagement and this event created a great space for that. Inspired!"

"Great mix of speakers and attendees. Very open and friendly atmosphere."

"Really useful way of thinking about local engagement."


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