Understanding the Roots of Voluntary Action

VAHS book review

Order now from Sussex Academic Press

Edited by Colin Rochester, George Campbell Gosling, Alison Penn & Meta Zimmeck (Sussex Academic Press, 2011)
PB – 190 pages – £25 – ISBN: 978-1-84519-424-6

The current debate on the growing role of the voluntary and community or –third– sector in delivering public and social policy is impoverished by its lack of understanding of the historical events which have shaped the sector and its relationship with the state. This widely anticipated book draws on a range of empirical studies of aspects of the history of voluntary action to illuminate and inform this debate. Chapter contributions range across two centuries and a variety of fields of activity, geographical areas and organisational forms.

Four key themes are addressed:

• The ‘moving frontier’ between the state and voluntary action; the distribution of roles and functions between them; and the nature of their inter-relationship.

• The ‘springs’ of voluntary action – what makes people get involved in voluntary organisations or support them financially.

• Organisational challenges for voluntary agencies, including growth, cleaving to their missions and values, and survival.

• Issues of continuity and change: how and to what extent has the nature of voluntary action and its role in society remained essentially the same despite the changing context?

This book is essential reading for all practitioners involved in charities and voluntary and non-profit organisations, for those who work at the interface between government and the third sector and for those who are involved in making and implementing public and social policy.


Today’s Debate and the Experience of the Past – Colin Rochester

The Moving Frontier between the State and Voluntary Action
2 Social History and Organizational Development: Revisiting Beveridge’s Voluntary Action – Alison Penn
3 Child Guidance in Britain 1926–1955: From Voluntarism to the Welfare State? – John Stewart
4 Responses to Children in Need in Scotland: Historical Challenges for Social Services Planning, Policy and Provision – Alexandra Wright

The Impulse from Above and the Impulse from Below
5 By The People Themselves? Social Class and a Volunteer-Led Museum, 1884–1915 – Bridget Yates
6 Varieties of Voluntarism in the South Wales Coalfield, circa 1880–1948 – Steven Thompson
7 Quintin Hogg and the Original Polytechnic – Brenda Weeden
8 Child Rescue as Mission in Britain, 1850–1915 – Shurlee Swain
9 Gender and Voluntarism in the Criminal Justice System: The Campaigning Activities of Women Magistrates in England, 1920–1960 – Anne Logan

Organizational Challenges
10 Success and Failure in Scottish Convalescent Homes, 1860–1939 – Jenny Cronin
11 Change or Decay: the House of Charity for Distressed Persons in London, 1919–2000 – Pat Starkey

Change and Continuity
12 Scientific Philanthropy and the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, 1796–1824 – Jonathan Fowler
13 Is There a “New Philanthropy”? – Beth Breeze

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