New Directions in American Philanthropy
Sheffield Hallam University
14-15 September 2017

Meaning, literally, “love of all mankind”, the historian Lawrence J. Friedman has framed philanthropy as ‘a collective form of charitable giving.’ In the nearly two centuries since Alexis De Tocqueville’s observation that the United States is a ‘nation of joiners,’ volunteerism and philanthropy have played a significant role in America’s domestic and international history. For some, such as the scholar Olivier Zunz, philanthropy is ‘part of the American progressive tradition.’ Yet despite good intentions, the history of American philanthropy is not without controversy. Indeed, the political scientist Inderjeet Parmar, acknowledging that ‘it is difficult to believe that philanthropy…could possibly be malignant,’ has argued that it has not always been either an effective tool or a force for positive change.

The purpose of this workshop is to engage in this debate concerning the positive and negative aspects of American philanthropy. It is hoped that the research presented will both challenge and further our understanding of the role of charity and philanthropy in American history. From small Church groups and missionary efforts to secular organisations and multi-million dollar foundations, research papers covering any aspect of the history of philanthropy in America will be encouraged. Possible topics for 20-30 minute papers include, but are not limited to:

  • Philanthropy in the early Republic
  • Civil War and Reconstruction era philanthropy
  • Women and philanthropy; women philanthropists
  • African-American, Asian-American and Native-American philanthropists and philanthropy
  • Philanthropy, philanthropists and the US economy
  • The Big 3: Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller
  • Beyond the Big 3: the history of other American foundations
  • Philanthropy and American foreign relations
  • Religious and secular philanthropy
  • Charity and philanthropy in contemporary America

The keynote lecture will be delivered by Professor Inderjeet Parmar (City University London).

Proposals of no more than 250 words for papers should be sent to Dr Ben Offiler (b.offiler@shu.ac.uk) by 7 June 2017.

Full panel proposals are welcome although all-male panels will not be considered. All submissions should include the name of the presenter, their institution, email address, a short profile, and the title of the proposed presentation. Panel proposals should include a brief outline of the panel in addition to individual abstracts for each paper. Proposals from postgraduate and early-career researchers are encouraged.

Thanks to a grant provided by the Economic History Society a limited number of bursaries will be made available to support attendance by PGRs and ECRs. Priority will be given to speakers without access to institutional support. Please indicate in your additional information if you would like to apply for a bursary and whether you have access to institutional support, giving an estimate of potential travel and/or accommodation costs.

Symposium registration will open in June 2017.