In 2016, we placed five historians in five different institutions. Bonnie Evans worked alongside the IPPR to add a historical perspective to their work on childcare. Helen Carr used her history of Muslim integration in the UK to inform Bright Blue’s stance on immigration. Michael Weatherburn was placed with the Resolution Foundation to aid their understanding of the impact of the internet on the workplace. Anna Marerker worked with Royal College of Surgeons redesigning the Hunterian Museum. Martin Gorsky is organising a conference on the history and future of the NHS with the IPPR.
The outputs ranged from redesigning museum exhibitions, arranging joint conferences for policymakers and historians to authoring policy documents. All our historians found their placements rewarding and so too did the institutions that were involved. Rather than document all these experiences, this page looks at two of our placements in detail, highlighting what these HiR placements look like and what they achieved.
Bonnie Evans, a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen Mary, worked alongside the IPPR to add a historical perspective to a policy document the IPPR developed for the Great London Assembly and London Mayoralty on how the capital can improve childcare. Bonnie said that this work was ‘an incredibly productive experience for me as an historian’. Not least because the placement gave her new insights and contacts within the policymaking world, but also made her reflect on how history should inform policy. Bonnie explained how it she had initially assumed that long histories on broad topics would be most useful to the IPPR, but soon discovered that it was far more beneficial to investigate specific questions that were set by her host institution. Her experience with the IPPR also made Bonnie think her own historical work on the history autism in post-war Britain in a new light. Her placement forced her to think more about the relationship between the history of autism and the history of female employment and government support for it. Bonnie plans to write a policy paper for the History and Policy website, taking much from her work with the IPPR, that will make national policy recommendations for childcare in Britain.
Helen Carr, a doctoral candidate with links to the Pears Institute, worked as an Associate Fellow at Bright Blue uses her work on the history of Muslim integration in the UK to inform what the think-tank was saying about immigration. For instance, Helen’s work directly influenced what Ryan Shorthouse, the Director of Bright Blue, said on Brexit and immigration at the last Conservative Party Conference. More generally, both Helen and Bright Blue considered the placement to be rewarding. Nigel Fletcher, Head of Research at Bright Blue, said Helen ‘was very engaged in our work and made a valuable contribution to our intellectual capital as a think tank’. Helen said how working with Bright Blue forced her to think more clearly about how her research was relevant to contemporary political debates as well as how reflect on how to translate her research to a non-academic audience. She also commented on how her experience allowed her to develop a much broader understanding of her own work.
Throughout many of our first placements and in both the case studies presented above, a key theme emerges. That actually working with policymakers forced our historians to think far more critically about how their work can really inform current debates over policy.