Social Policy History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

The London School of Economics’ Social Policy department defines Social Policy as: “an interdisciplinary and applied subject concerned with the analysis of societies' responses to social need”. Harvard University defines it as "[the] public policy and practice in the areas of health care, human services, criminal justice, inequality, education, and labour". The broadness of the subject area means that items on social policy history are scattered across the geographically arranged collections. We do have extensive holdings of books, reports and academic journals on all aspects of social policy worldwide, but particular strengths in the UK, North America and Western Europe. A selection will be listed here and a wider range of material relevant for this field of research can be browsed on the catalogue. Useful search terms are listed below. Some of the works are kept in closed access and have to be requested in advance. See further details here. Also check out our guide for UK parliamentary sources as that kind of material would be essential for research into this field.

The Social Policy history collection in the IHR Library covers social work and social policy administration, comparative research and research into international institutions, policy-making processes and practice, governance and management, delivery and use, and inter-professional relationships. 



Highlights of the collection


Bibliographies/Archival Guides

Books - General 

State Welfare & Social services incl. Healthcare 

Some useful keyword and subject search terms: Health care reform, Sanitation, Public health, Welfare statePoor


Ink-wash illustration of Rochford Alms houses in Essex, 1787 by John Thomas Smith


Shows group of women on porch and seated on steps of "Faith Home", a Baptist run charity house giving home to destitute and feeble female former slaves. Illustration published in "In Christ's Stead": Autobiographical Sketches, by Joanna P. Moore (1832-1916); Chicago: Women's Baptist Home Mission Society, 1902

Some useful keyword and subject search terms: Charities, Philanthropists, Charitable uses, trusts and foundations.


Photo de classe, Institution Sainte-Agnès, Asnières (Hauts-de-Seine), vers 1930, studio David et Vallois


End of the year exams (maths, 10th class) in Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram, Jaura, India © Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Some useful keyword and subject search terms: Literacy, Schools, Educational law and legislation.

Criminal Justice & Inequality, incl. Civil Rights  

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge with four Osage Indians after Coolidge signed the bill granting Indians full citizenship

Some useful keyword and subject search terms: Discrimination, Equality, Prisons, Criminal justice, administration of, criminal law, civil rights.

Core Journals 

Social Policy periodicals in the IHR Library

Other resources 


Electronic resources  

Online resources related to Social Policy history are listed below and via the catalogue, and are available onsite from IHR library PCs. With the exception of the Churchill Archive, offsite access is mostly limited to staff and students of the IHR due to licence restrictions. At the moment Wi-Fi-access in the building is treated as offsite, although we are hoping to get this changed. See also Senate House Library Databases and eResources.


Other libraries, archives, organisations 

Other institutions worth consulting are the collections just next door in Senate House Library. Also very local is the Institute of Education  for work on education policy. A little bit further down the road from the IHR library is the London School of Economics and Political Science. LSE houses the oldest department of social policy in UK and its library is very comprehensive in this area of research. Further afield the National Archives in Kew houses vast material of records and archives and finally for specific research into the history of social policy in London the London Metropolitan archives would be essential. 

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