The Thatcherite pension reforms

Project Details


Since the end of 2006 there has been a widespread consensus that Britain's pension system is seriously dysfunctional. The debate over the nature and extent of the 'pensions crisis,' and over ways in which it might best be remedied, has been extensive and given rise to a number of policy responses. Yet surprisingly little attention has been given to the historical roots of that crisis, or to the ways in which the historical development of Britain's complex system of public and private provision for security in old age both helped to create the crisis and constrains options for change. The reforms implemented in the 1980s marked a key moment in the development of Britain’s overall system of income replacement in old age. Yet we lack any detailed historical survey of developments in that decade utilising primary sources from the period. Without fully understanding the roots of the pension problem how can we solve it effectively? Lacking such an understanding we are in danger of repeating mistakes made in the past. This project will fill this significant void in our understanding. Taking advantage of the accelerated release of official and other records consequent on the government’s decision to move to a ’20-year rule’ for document release it will examine in detail the policy changes of the 1980s. The project aims to provide a link between contemporary historical research, political science theory, and present policy debates about the future of British pensions in the twenty-first century. It will also provide us with a rich case study of a key aspect of the 'Thatcher Revolution', and of the implementation of a particular variety of neoliberalism in the UK.
Effective start/end date1/09/1431/07/20


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council: £580,403.00

Structured keywords

  • PolicyBristolGovernanceAndPublicServices
  • PolicyBristolBusinessAndEconomicPolicy

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  • Research Output

    Pension Funds and the Politics of Ownership in Britain, c. 1970–86

    Davies, A., 1 Mar 2019, In : Twentieth Century British History. 30, 1, 27 p., hwy005.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

    Open Access
  • 29 Downloads (Pure)

    Thatcher's Pension Reforms: Project Report no. 5

    Pemberton, H., 5 Jan 2019, 2 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportOther report

    Open Access
  • 26 Downloads (Pure)

    Decentring Thatcher's 'neoliberal revolution'

    Pemberton, H., Freeman, J. & Davies, A., 27 Oct 2018. 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper

    Open Access
  • 55 Downloads (Pure)


    • 12 Participation in conference
    • 1 Participation in workshop, seminar, course
    • 1 Advisory work for/on national or international committee or working group
    • 1 Stakeholder engagement

    Lecture given to the Bristol Society of Actuaries

    Hugh Pemberton (Advisor)

    30 Oct 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesStakeholder engagement

    Annual meeting of the Social Science History Association, Montreal 2-5 Nov 2017

    Hugh Pemberton (Participant)

    2 Nov 2017

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    Rethinking British Neoliberalism

    Aled Rhys Davies (Organiser)

    11 Sep 2017

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference