Shaping Public Policy

Submitting Institution

Queen Mary, University of London

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Political Science
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The modern and contemporary British historians in the School of History at Queen Mary have a reputation for rigorous, yet relevant and engaged scholarship which has bearing on contemporary policies. Three historians — Peter Catterall (01 Sep. 1992-31 August 2012), Martyn Frampton (01 Sep. 2009-) and Tristram Hunt (30 Jun. 2003-) — have followed the influence of Peter Hennessy and the School of History's Research Strategy to make high profile and high value interventions in shaping public policy debates that surround the making of various policies, including contributing directly to the policy-making process in Whitehall. As a result, Queen Mary historians are recognised as reliable and expert interlocutors on counter-terrorism (Frampton), democracy and heritage (Catterall), and policy related to the cities and the countryside (Hunt).

Underpinning research

Queen Mary has developed a strong reputation for producing field-leading research in the sphere of modern and contemporary British history and currently employs 12 historians this area. Their status has been established through the consistent production of high-quality monographs and other traditional scholarly outputs. At the same time, historians within the School have built prominent public profiles, which allow them to contribute directly to a variety of policy debates. They have also been to the fore in shaping the broader intellectual and cultural contexts within which political decisions are taken.

In the field of counter-terrorism, Frampton's research into the history of modern Irish republicanism and the Northern Irish conflict (Long March: The Political Strategy of Sinn Fein, 1981-2007, 2009 and Talking to Terrorists: Making Peace in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country, 2009) has allowed him to influence a number of debates about contemporary security threats and the challenges posed by ideologically-driven subversive movements. His most recent monograph (Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism, 2011) provided the first academic treatment of the latest security threat to emerge from the most-turbulent corner of the United Kingdom; he has drawn on this to engage with the debate on policy responses. In addition, his new research into the phenomenon of radical Islamism and its relationship with the British State, has allowed him to intervene in the prominent debate that surrounds the government's broader counter-terrorism strategy ("Between `Engagement' and a `Values-Led' Approach", 2012).

Other Queen Mary historians have also established themselves as influential public figures. Peter Catterall has extensively examined the intersection between ideology (broadly understood to include theology), politics and culture. This is reflected in his most renowned and recent work as the editor of Harold Macmillan's diaries (The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-1957, 2003 and The Macmillan Diaries: Prime Minister and After 1957-66, 2011). These books are the culmination of his long-standing historical inquiry into both the dynamics of political life and the mechanics of policy formulation (he was, for instance, the founding editor of the journal National Identities, which explored the relationship between political institutions and identities). Catterall has been acknowledged as a leading expert on a range of political and policy matters; and in a number of contexts, he has acted as a consultant for civil servants, national politicians, diplomats and local councillors.

Tristram Hunt has similarly established himself as a much-respected public intellectual. His research into Victorian civic pride and political culture has made him into one of the most prominent political historians of modern Britain (Building Jerusalem: the Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, 2004 and The Frock-coated Communist: the Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, 2009). Alongside this, Hunt has examined the history of the countryside and used this to reflect on the contemporary issue of the urban-rural divide (Making Our Mark: 80 Years of Campaigning for the Countryside, 2006).

References to the research

The Long March: The Political Strategy of Sinn Fein, 1981-2007 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2009)


Talking to Terrorists: Making Peace in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country (London: Hurst & Co., 2009) (with John Bew and Inigo Gurruchaga)


Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2011)


The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-1957 (London: Macmillan, 2003)

The Macmillan Diaries: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 (London: Macmillan, 2011)


Building Jerusalem: the Rise and Fall of the Victorian City (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004)


Details of the impact

In the sphere of counter-terrorism, Frampton utilised his research into radicalisation and the interplay between radical ideology and the use of violence to consider the new security threat surrounding radical Islamism. In 2009, he co-authored an extended 60,000 pamphlet for the leading think-tank Policy Exchange, Choosing our Friends Wisely: Criteria for engagement with Muslim groups (CFW), which analysed counter-radicalisation policies and generated much debate in the mainstream British media. A former Chief of the Defence Staff praised the report as a `remarkable' contribution (The Times, 24 March 2009). And after its release, the Director-General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), sent a letter to Policy Exchange responding to its arguments and stating: "we found much in the report of real value" (Letter to Policy Exchange, 23 June 2009). One of the authors also held a private meeting with the Director-General to discuss the report and they have been informed by civil servants that it is widely referenced within the Home Office. The publication's recommendations first helped inform the `Contest 2' counter-terrorism strategy of 2009; and then it played a critical role in shaping the intellectual environment that produced both David Cameron's ground-breaking Munich speech in 2010 and the 2011 Prevent Review. The latter was described by one journalist as `a tribute to an intellectual battle fought over the years by the modernising think-tank, Policy Exchange' (D'Ancona, Evening Standard, 8 June 2011).

Frampton's broader research on the questions of how states respond to terrorism and how terrorism ends, has also played an important role in contemporary public debates about the applicability (or otherwise) of `the lessons of Northern Ireland' — whether in the UK, Spain, Ireland, the United States, Israel, or Afghanistan. The book, Talking to Terrorists, received extensive coverage in the national and international media (David Trimble reviewed it positively and wrote of the lessons to be drawn from its research: By way of follow up in the Israeli context in particular, Frampton also co-authored a policy report for the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs — the semi-official think tank headed by the former UN Ambassador Dore Gold (Talking to Terrorists: The Myths, Misconceptions and Misapplication of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, Jerusalem Viewpoints, 2008). Most recently, he co-authored a report that considered whether Northern Ireland's peace process might contain insights for those seeking to negotiate an end to the conflict in Afghanistan (Talking to the Taliban: Hope over History? 2013), which generated discussion in both the British and American media.

In addition, he has produced a `primer' on the dissident Irish republican threat, aimed at policy-makers and politicians (Return of the Militants: Violent Dissident Irish Republicanism, 2010), which generated significant public discussion. It received private praise from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as a valuable synopsis of the current threat from dissident republicans and by a senior member of the Home Office as a `superb piece of analysis' (private correspondence, 28 Sept. 2011). The Chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland has also welcomed the report ("We in the Federation found the report a very useful contribution to the public and political debate regarding the nature, background and intensity of the campaign by Dissident Republicans, in their campaign of violence against the Police, and other targets in Northern Ireland, in a clear attempt to subvert democracy and the fragile political institutions in this part of the United Kingdom. In conclusion, your pamphlet was a timely reminder of perhaps the most serious challenge that still faces our entire community in Northern Ireland", private correspondence, 26 July 2013), while it has been included in `information packs' for members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (email from NIA Librarian, 27 September 2011). More broadly, Frampton has discussed the threat posed by dissident Irish republicans in both national and international media (including on the BBC's Newsnight (11 Nov. 2010) and Today programme (11 Mar. 2009), as well as for ABC News (27 Apr. 2011) and SBS Dateline (4 Sep. 2011)).

Catterall's research straddles the fields of history and public policy allowing him to play a publicly active role in various settings. Catterall's reputation as a historian who understands the interplay between civic and political life led to him being appointed the Heritage Champion for the London Borough of Bexley and a member of the London Historical Environments Forum (LHEF). Through his participation in the LHEF, he is involved in advising local governments as to how they can improve the location of history in the public realm. At the national level, meanwhile, in the run up to the 2010 British General Election, Catterall was invited to join the Institute for Government in providing expert advice and testimony (through private workshops and consultation documents) on processes of governmental transition. Elsewhere, as a member of the Hansard Society he has both worked for the digitisation of the Hansard archive, and sought to engage practitioners in a wider understanding of policy formation. Catterall also teaches future policy-makers and thinkers from all over the world as part of the Chevening Programme. Established in 1983, and funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of the UK government's global scholarship programme, the Chevening Programme is a prestigious international scheme which supports scholars from 118 countries across the world (excluding the USA and the EU) to study at postgraduate level in the UK and has an alumni of 42,000. Catterall also runs the Chevening Scholars `Democracy and Public Policy' programme; participants included MPs and civil servants, both domestic and foreign, and in some regards, the course can be viewed as a form of "soft power" diplomacy.

Hunt's research on the 19th-century Victorian city has produced various research impacts. In the past he has been a conspicuous public speaker on the characteristics of urban governance and he has worked with several municipalities (Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester) to explore the ways in which history can be used to foster civic pride. Hunt has also advised the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) on Britain's historic relationship with the urban-rural divide. Finally, he has exploited his research on social class and the city to communicate it to a wide audience, as did his 2007 Radio 4 series, Parkmasters, his 2009 Radio 3 series, Ideas: the British Version, and his 2009 Radio 4 series Britain in their Sites, 2009. In each of these broadcasts, Hunt extended his work on intellectual and architectural history to a wide public audience. This prominent profile, not least since he became an MP in 2010, has allowed Hunt to make a series of distinguished interventions into the debate surrounding the reform of the national curriculum, especially on becoming the Shadow Education Secretary in 2013.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Talking to Terrorists (the book) received positive comment in the press (amongst those to praise the book were David Trimble, former US Special Envoy Mitchell Reiss and former European Ambassador John Bruton). It was chosen in Foreign Policy magazine's Global Thinkers Book Club in December 2009 and has been discussed in The Sunday Times (17 Aug. 2008), The Financial Times, Irish Times, the (Irish) Sunday Tribune (front-page, 31 Aug. 2008), the Spectator (26 Nov. 2010), the Irish Independent, the Daily Mail (30 Mar. 2008), the Belfast News Letter (25 Jul. 2009), the Sunday Business Post (31 May 2009) The Jewish Chronicle (8 Aug. 2008), El Mundo (27 Jul. 2009), El Siglo de Europa (11 Jan. 2010), The American Interest (Nov. 2009), National Review Online (17 Nov. 2009), the Weekly Standard (7 Aug. 2009), The RUSI Journal (Aug. 2009), The Jerusalem Post (22 Jan. 2009), Haaretz (1 Aug. 2008), and Reuters Online (16 Jun. 2009). Also see David Trimble's review:

Choosing our Friends Wisely was followed up with extensive media coverage (The Times, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, 9 Mar. 2009, as well as in the Economist, the Spectator and the Wall Street Journal). See also, C. Guthrie, `This is no way to counter Islamic Terror', The Times, 24 Mar. 2009; M. D'Ancona, `For Cameron, terrorism is the new Cold War', Evening Standard, 8 Jun. 2011. For the influence of Policy Exchange on David Cameron's Conservative party, see (amongst others), N. Morris, `The intellectual heart of Cameron's Conservatism', Independent, 15 Aug. 2008.

An individual who can corroborate the policy significance of Choosing our Friends Wisely: Director General, Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, Home Office

Return of the Militants: Violent Irish Republicanism received coverage in the Irish Times (12 and 20 Nov. 2010), the Belfast Telegraph (12 Nov., 30 November and 7 Dec. 2010). Frampton has also discussed dissident Irish republicanism for ABC News (19 Apr. 2011), SBS Dateline (4 Sep. 2011) and various other outlets, as well as being the subject of a major exclusive report by BBC Newsnight (11 Nov. 2010). He has also been interviewed by the Today programme (11 Mar. 2009).

For corroborating testimony of impact of Return of the Militants see letter to author from Chairman of the NI Police Federation, 26 Jul. 2013; also email from NI Assembly Librarian to author on 27 Sep. 2011; and email to author from a senior official within the Home Office, 28 Sep. 2011.

Talking to the Taliban: Hope over History? was covered in the Daily Telegraph (19 Jun. 2013), by Radio Free Europe and in USA Today (21 Jun. 2013).

Councillor duties, Borough of Bexley:

Contribution to Institute for Government 2009 report, `Transitions: preparing for changes of government':

Hansard Society:

Chevening Scholars:

CPRE, `Making our mark: 80 years of campaigning for the countryside', Feb. 2006:

National Trust webpage, contribution on Octavia Hill:

Example of a contributions to the debate about the future teaching of history, The Guardian, 12 May 2013: