Specialises in welfare policy, the growth (and contraction) of government and, more broadly, social history since the late nineteenth century. His main focus is Britain since 1945, while recognising that a full understanding of this period requires a comparative and long-term perspective. Hence his interest in comparative history and the broader social forces which have influenced both welfare policy and the changing role of government.
His research has been supported by sizeable research grants and he has lectured widely abroad and been involved in present-day political and administrative issues. Four of the research grants funded published handbooks to government records on economic and welfare policy between 1939 and 1964 held at the Public Record Office in London. These provide access to a wealth of primary material for prospective researchers. Other grants, for research into the 'modernization of postwar Britain', were awarded under the Whitehall Programme of the Economic and Social Research Council which was designed to improve academic and public understanding of the rapidly changing nature of British government. This work led to his attendance at the Public Service seminars, chaired by the cabinet secretary, at which a small group of academics and officials discussed current issues. It also led to his appointment as an official historian in the Cabinet Office to write the history of the civil service since the Fulton Report of 1968.
To further his research on comparative history he has been, among other things, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra and a member of the international reference group at the University of Stockholm on its 'Welfare at the Crossroads' programme. He has visited Scandinavia regularly, as well as lecturing in the Netherlands and the USA.
Among his public appointments, he has been an associate editor of the New Dictionary of National Biography, responsible for the coverage of twentieth-century civil servants; and he is a member of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Public Records, which is responsible inter alia for ensuring the full release of government records under the FOI Act. He is also on the editorial board of Twentieth Century British History.
Full list of Professor Lowe's publications since 1991 held in the University's IRIS publications database.