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School of History, Philosophy and Culture
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 484166
Headington Campus, Tonge Block,T535
Glen O'Hara teaches across a range of Oxford Brookes courses. These chiefly concern governance and national identity in modern Britain, both in its domestic and international aspects. His second year course on 'The Making of Modern Britain', and his third year course 'Britain and the Sea', deal with the interaction between state and people, and between governments and the outside world, in the modern age.
Professor O'Hara was at Oxford University as an undergraduate and a postgraduate between 1993 and 1997, where he won the Gladstone Prize for History and Politics. After working as a journalist at The Independent, he moved back into academia at University College London, where he completed a PhD in 2002. In 2001 he was appointed Lecturer in Economic History at the University of Bristol, where he spent a year before moving to New College, Oxford, as Lecturer in Modern History. He moved to Oxford Brookes in January 2005.
You can watch his May 2018 Inaugural Lecture as a Professor here, and you can listen to or download a podcast of the lecture here:
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Professor O'Hara is primarily interested in British central governments' economic and social policies, focusing especially on the period since the First World War, and has written and edited a number of books on this subject. In 2012 he released a full-length monograph on British politics between the 1950s and the 1970s, entitled Governing Post-War Britain: The Paradoxes of Progress (2012), and he followed that up by publishing The Politics of Water in Post-War Britain in 2017. Professor O'Hara is now writing a history of the domestic policies of the Blair Governments between 1997 and 2007, while acting as Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project 'In All Our Footsteps: Tracking, Mapping & Experiencing Rights of Way in Post-War Britain'. He is also Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded programme 'Spaces of Hope: The Hidden Histories of Community-Led Planning in the UK'. He writes regularly in the media on current affairs and policy, for instance in The Guardian and The New European, and can be followed on Twitter as @gsoh31.
This article examines British officials’ and ministers’ attitudes towards the Soviet Union’s economy in the post‐Second World War era. In the nineteen‐fifties and early nineteen‐sixties, public and some expert commentary posited Soviet economic ‘success’ based on the country’s increasingly rapid growth rate, its potential for consumerization, the promise of economic reform, and the Soviet state’s emphasis on education, science and the application of computer technology. New evidence from British official archives, presented here, makes clear that Westminster and Whitehall were never persuaded of this view, and always believed that political meddling and microeconomic inefficiencies would ultimately restrain and undermine Soviet growth.
Britain’s exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 and the Second Iraq War in 2003 are two infamous examples of disastrous policy, but governments blunder all the time – whatever party is in power. Infrastructure projects overrun. The aims and techniques of different departments clash. Scandals erupt among officials and politicians. Controversies stymie attempts at agreement and consensus. But why exactly do these failures happen? Are they more or less widespread than in the private sector? And can studying British governments’ decision-making across the twentieth century improve it in the future? In his May 2018 inaugural lecture, Professor O'Hara recommended a slow, deliberative, transparent, democratic and above all humble and sensitive approach in order to avoid another Black Wednesday or ruinous war – an approach in contrast to the populist tone of much recent debate.
The early 1960s witnessed a number of long-term plans being issued by the British government – for roads, hospitals, new towns, city centres, social care and even the whole economy. A ‘Very Long Term Planning Group’ within Whitehall even looked twenty five years into the future, to inform central planning and the setting of priorities. By the 1970s, however, this effort seemed to have entirely broken down, and the UK Government was involved in a day-to-day struggle even to keep electricity supplies flowing. Incomes policies and industrial subsidies focused, not on the twenty first century, but on day-to-day negotiations in particular sectors of the economy, or even specific companies. This article will explore this retreat from forethought and pre-commitment. What factors explain this remarkable retreat from ambitious and hopeful plans of a ‘scientific’ and an optimistic future? Why did the time-frame of Britain’s governments, and her policy-making elites, shrink so dramatically and so rapidly? And finally, what implications for British politics and policy-making did the shortening time-horizon imply?
East London’s former docklands have been at the centre of planning and regeneration debates for the past four decades. The setting up of the LDDC has been variously interpreted as ‘3-D Thatcherism’ in action, a symbol of the death of comprehensive planning and the replacement of a corporatist, Keynesian era of urban policy with a more neo-liberal approach. Moving away from simplistic and straightforward interpretations of the processes happening at this time, this paper uses new archival and interview material to re-examine the setting up of the LDDC and its early years, revealing a more complex and contradictory picture than existing accounts suggest. It focuses on three themes: changing forms of state intervention; the uncertain ‘break’ in the post-war consensus as evidenced by the changes in approaches to the regeneration of Docklands; and the unintended, disordered process of actual policy change. As such we aim to reveal how shifting visions, modes of governance and practices can compete and co-exist in the midst of seemingly coherent ‘eras’, as Docklands as a place and as an approach to regeneration was constantly made and re-made – a process that continues to this day.
This paper examines four influences on British regional policy in the late 1960s: party politics in the context of the economic environment; the structure of government; the influence of the ‘new regional economics’; and the impact of new knowledge and statistics. Much of the confusion of British regional policies in the 1960s is found to have been due to political and administrative divisions allowed by the fact that new theoretical approaches and data were so novel and uncertain. Policies are therefore advocated that are based on established research, clearly and simply defined, and determined democratically within regions themselves.
The study of British incomes policy has been hampered by the difficulty of developing a coherent overall analysis of the reasons for its appeal and effects. Historians have usually been interested in the details of party political disputation and policy-making. Political scientists and economists have instead explained the adoption and failure of such policies by reference to the structure of British democracy and the British economy. This article attempts to utilise both traditions to explain why the Conservative governments of the period 1957–64 turned to incomes policy as a solution to economic difficulties, and why it failed to solve those problems.
Previous attempts to explain Britain's failure to develop an effective incomes policy have tended to focus on general causes. These have included the small scale of industry, the weakness of ‘peak associations’ of employers and trade unionists, or fragmentation and lack of expertise in government. While this article does not attempt to challenge the importance of these factors, it will attempt to tell a more detailed and specific story about Labour's attempt to construct a ‘social bargain’ in the late 1960s. Using recently released documents from the archives of central government, unions and employers, this piece will attempt to show that Labour's confusion as to the aims of incomes policy was another important reason for the policy's failure. Ideological divisions at elite policy-making levels made the whole project less than realistic from the start. While the Government was uncertain as to the aims of policy, trade unions and employers were initially sceptical towards, and later totally opposed to, intervention in wage and price setting. This fact meant that, by the time Labour left office in 1970, there were very few proponents of wage and price control left within government, unions or employers associations.
The Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn is charting a new direction. Here, Nathan Yeowell has brought together a remarkable array of contributors to provide expert insight into twentieth-century British history and Labour politics – and how they might shape thinking about Labour's future.
Reframing the span of Labour history and its effects on contemporary British politics, the book provides fresh thinking and analysis of various traditions, themes and individuals. These include the shifting significance of 1945, the need for more grounded interpretations of Tony Blair's legacy, and the enduring importance of place, identity and aspiration to the evolution of the party. Contributions from leading historians such as Patrick Diamond, Steven Fielding, Ben Jackson, Glen O' Hara and Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite are supplemented by those with experience of Labour electoral politics, such as Rachel Reeves and Nick Thomas-Symonds.
The result is an intellectually rich and politically relevant roadmap for Labour's future.
Conferences organised since 2001
Conference papers (selected since 2001)