CFP: British Philanthropies 1750-1914: Reforming and Redeeming the World and the Metropolis


17 June 2014
British Philanthropies 1750-1914: Reforming and Redeeming the World and the Metropolis

Université Lyon 2 – Triangle UMR 5206 – ED 484 3LA

Call for Papers
Conjuring up images of Wedgwood cameos picturing the famous ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother?’ slave or
Oliver Twist asking for more gruel in a London parish workhouse, British philanthropy took on so many shapes in the
18th and 19th centuries that it almost seems accurate to talk about British philanthropies. The efforts to promote the
physical and spiritual well-being of others were manifold between 1750 and 1914, whether they originated from
missionary organizations and church officials, lay individuals, poor nobodies or wealthy tradesmen. These philanthropic
endeavours were often tarnished by those who questioned the real purpose of these humanitarian concerns.
Be that as
it may, the range of activities operated by those philanthropic networks seemed to know no boundaries: their targets
included the British poor as well as the spiritually destitute slaves and heathens of far-off lands, resulting in a sometimes
tense relationship between the home and the foreign philanthropic fields – what Dickens denounced as ‘telescopic
philanthropy’ in the 1853 novel Bleak House.
This one-day conference wishes to explore those concurring and complementing aspects and the evolutions
that philanthropy underwent between 1750 and 1914 in the British Empire and the metropolis. PhD and postgrad
students whose researches focus on philanthropic endeavours and societies, missionary organizations and/or
philanthropic literature from the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century are more than welcome to speak on
this occasion. Speakers are also invited to reflect on the historiographical perspectives of those issues and discuss their
representations and treatment in school curricula, commemoration events and ceremonies, such as the 2007
Bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the UK.
Topics may include but are not limited to:
• evolution of the face of philanthropy in the Georgian and Victorian eras: saving bodies, saving souls? Reforming
bodies, redeeming souls?
• new means of actions, new strategies: funding, promotion, campaigning strategies, results
• philanthropic networks, societies, and publications (pamphlets and journals): actors, readerships, modes of
appropriation and action
• philanthropic networks and the political sphere: the philanthropists in Parliament
• missions and humanitarianism: denominational charity, mission work at home and abroad
• women and philanthropy: philanthropy as a sphere of action for women
• children and philanthropy: targets of philanthropic societies and tools of promotion
• paupers, slaves and heathens: telescopic philanthropy; philanthropic rivalries at home and overseas
• the home field and overseas: connected networks? (personnel, funding, representations)
• anti-slavery movement and societies: national and local societies and their publications
• local philanthropies: reforming cities
• detractors of philanthropy
• philanthropy and social control in the metropolis and in the colonies
• enlightened philanthropy: science and humanitarianism
• philanthropy in Georgian and Victorian visual culture (engravings, paintings, photography); promoting or
caricaturing philanthropy
• philanthropy in literature
• philanthropy as a distinctively British feature? Philanthropy and Britishness, patriotism
• institutionalized philanthropy? Charity and the State (workhouses, prisons)
• the missionary/philanthropic narrative and its longevity in British public and community history
• the treatment of missions and philanthropy in the History National Curriculum
Dr Alison Twells (Sheffield Hallam University) will deliver the conference’s keynote speech, unfolding the history of
the philanthropic narrative in Britain and assessing its longevity in British public and community history. Dr Twells is
the author of The Civilising Mission and the Middle Class: The Heathens at Home and Overseas, 1792-1850 (Palgrave Macmillan,
One-page proposals are due by January 31st, 2014, and should be sent to Maud Michaud (maud.michaud1@univlyon2.
fr) and/or Mélanie Cournil ( This conference will be hosted on June, 17th 2014
in the Université Lyon 2/ENS campus in Lyon, France.

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