HIST 5702F: Public History Special Topics: History and Public Policy
Fall 2022

Instructor:    Jean-Pierre Morin


Public policy is not crafted in a vacuum. It is pushed, pulled and informed by research crafted specifically to help in the analysis of public policy issues. Policy research comes in many different forms, from statistical data to scientific reports, and is a fundamental part of the policy development process. Evidence based policy development is becoming a growing field both within the Public Service and with consulting firms and academics. Only recently, however, has historical research been included in this category. Nearly all public policy initiatives require some level of historical research. Historical research can play an important role in the development of public policy, especially in helping understand context and demonstrating long term trends. This is especially true with the policies relating to Indigenous Peoples in Canada as policies are often addressing historic and long-standing issues. Despite this recognised need, few have the training and experience to develop the historical research tools and products to best assist public policy development.

Aims and Goals:

Throughout this course, we will examine the process of public policy development as well as the different roles of historical research in that process through the case study of three federal policy issues, such as Indigenous policy, Health Care policy, or National Historic Recognition policy. These policy issues will be the focus of the course assignments. We will also examine the types of historical research products that can help enhance public policy.

There are 2 primary goals for this course: 1- to understand the role of research, especially historical research, in the public policy process; and 2 – to develop approaches that apply historical practices and technics to real world examples. A secondary goal of the course is to build a better understanding of the federal government policy process.


It is essential that students come to our weekly meetings prepared which means, at a minimum, that the assigned readings have been done and you are prepared to talk about them individually and as a whole. Ideally, this means bringing in both notes and the readings in with you, whether electronic or as hard copies. Laptops and tablets are welcome in the room.

Class Format:

The course itself will be a mix of discussion based on the assigned readings as well as presentations from outside guest speakers from the Federal Public Service.


The course itself will be a mix of discussion based on the assigned readings as well as presentations from outside guest speakers from the Federal Public Service. As public policy development is not a solitary activity but rather a team approach, the assignments will be approached in the same manner. The class will be divided into three groups corresponding with a policy issue. Students will be divided into groups according to policy issues and then work on specific topics related to the overarching issue. Each student will prepare a policy research package and then as a team, draft a mock Memorandum to Cabinet and present specific policy recommendations based on the research findings demonstrating the linkages between the various topics to a panel.

Questions?: Please email me at JeanPierreMorin@carleton.ca