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21 February 2019

Professor Ken Young, 1943 – 2019

The Department of Political Economy is sad to announce the passing of our founding Head of Department, Professor Ken Young.

Professor Ken Young, 1943 – 2019
Professor Ken Young, 1943 – 2019

Ken was appointed Professor of Public Policy at King’s in September 2005 with a remit to establish postgraduate programmes in public policy. Ken founded the MA in Public Policy and was instrumental in the creation of the King’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy as a home for it and similar programmes. The Department of Political Economy developed out of that Institute in 2010. Ken led the Department from September 2010 until January 2013.

Before coming to King’s Ken taught at a number of universities, including Cambridge, Kent, Bristol, Birmingham (where he was Director of the Institute for Local Government Studies) and Queen Mary, University of London (where he was Vice-Principal). He also worked at the Policy Studies Institute, served as an advisor to the House of Commons Select Committee on Environment and the Committee of Inquiry into the Conduct of Local Authority Business. He was Director of the ESRC UK Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice from 2000 to 2005.

For most of his career Ken’s research focused on urban politics and local government. His PhD was a study of the politicisation of London local government in the early twentieth century, published as ‘Local Politics and the Rise of Party’ by Leicester University Press in 1975. He was the co-author of ‘Local Government since 1945’ published by Blackwells in 1997. In the later part of his career Ken reinvented himself as a scholar of the history of the Cold War, publishing a series of articles on the development of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent and the impact of the nuclear age on Britain’s relationship with the US. This work culminated in his book, ‘The American Bomb in Britain: US Air Forces’ Strategic Presence, 1946–64’, published with Manchester University Press in 2016.

Ken was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society and was also a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences. In 2014, the journal Policy & Politics, which he had helped to found, began awarding an annual Ken Young Best Paper Prize, to the best article published in the previous year. Ken was awarded a 2014 Moncado Prize by the Society for Military History for his article, ‘Special Weapon, Special Relationship: The Atomic Bomb Comes to Britain’, published in The Journal of Military History.

Ken liked to quote Michael Oakeshott: ‘Freedom, like game pie, is not a bright idea’. Ken, like Oakeshott, understood that institutions embody ideas and may be our most enduring legacy. The Department of Political Economy at King’s College London embodied Ken’s belief in the value of interdisciplinary scholarship dedicated to the study of public policy and is an important part of his legacy.