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‘Empires of Charity’

The Poverty Research Network held an exciting one-day workshop in March 2017, on the broad theme of ‘Empires of Charity’. The full workshop programme and intellectual agenda are set out below.

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‘Empires of Charity’ Workshop, Friday 3 March 2017
IAS Seminar Room, Millburn House, University of Warwick

Generously funded by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) and GRP International Development


Intellectual Agenda

‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’, so the saying goes; it has long been understood that gifts, donations, or charity, are part of complex social systems, which do not always have positive outcomes for the beneficiaries of these exchanges. The charitable act of giving has come under renewed scrutiny in recent years, with a number of public figures and high-profile philanthropists proclaiming that effective giving can ‘change the world’. These ideas have coalesced into the phenomenon of ‘philanthrocapitalism’, as a perceived new stage in philanthropic giving which commits huge resources and applies the methods of the business world to solve social problems. The succession of massive gifts by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, or the global interventions of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are just two overt examples of this wider trend.

Yet, as historians of religious missions, transnational advocacy networks, humanitarian interventions and colonial discourse will be well aware, the longer history of philanthropic giving and the charitable act is deeply entwined with imperialism and empire, and continues to be associated with neo-imperialism in the contemporary era. This workshop seeks to interrogate and investigate this nexus, to expand our understanding of the relationship between systems of charity and imperialism broadly defined within a trans-temporal and global framework. In doing so, the workshop will also begin to historicise and critically appraise ‘philanthrocapitalism’ as both an idea and practice.

The keynote address will be given by Professor Regina Grafe of the EUI, a specialist in the political economy of early modern Spain and the Spanish Empire.


Workshop Programme

09.30 Tea, coffee and pastries available from 09.30


10.00 Welcome and introductions (Julia McClure and Andrew Jones)

Short overview of the workshop and the Poverty Research Network


10.20 Keynote lecture: Regina Grafe (European University Institute)
Chair: Julia McClure (University of Warwick)


11.20 Workshop session 1: Charity and Empire in the Early Modern World
Chair: Desiree Arbo (University of Warwick)

Sara Pinto (University of Porto), Between givers and poor: managing charity in the Portuguese Empire
Uroš Zver (European University Institute), ‘I Sat in the Balance’ – Charity and Empire in Mughal India
David Hitchcock (Canterbury Christ Church University), ‘Punishment is all the charity that the law affordeth them’: Penal Transportation, Vagrancy, and the Charitable Impulse in England, c.1661-1750


12.50-1.40 Lunch


1.40 Workshop Session 2: Religion, Fundraising and Giving in a Global Frame
Chair: Giada Pizzoni (University of Warwick)

Karen Melvin (Bates College), Global Catholicism, Local Charities: Jerusalem and North Africa in New Spain
Katharina Stornig (Justus Liebig University Giessen), Shifting geographies of giving: The rise of the distant other in need in Catholic charity c. 1830-1870
Rajesh Kochhar (Panjab University), Charity Schools for the Half-Castes: The beginning of English education in India
Kirsten Kamphuis (European University Institute), Giving for Girls. Metropolitan Fundraising Efforts for Girls’ Education in the Netherlands Indies (ca.1900-1940)


3.30 Tea and coffee break


3.50 Workshop Session 3: Charity and Modern Imperialism
Chair: Naomi Pullin (University of Warwick)

Lori J. Daggar (Ursinus College), “Of Mercy and of Sound Policy Too": Indian Removal and the Cultivation of American Empire
Mary Wills (University of Hull), Envoys of ‘peace, friendship, kindness, charity’: British naval officers in nineteenth-century West Africa
Sara Scalenghe (Loyola University Maryland), Empire, Charity, and the Construction of Disability: The Case of the British Syrian Mission, 1860-1918


5.20 Tea and Coffee break


5.35 Workshop Session 4: Contemporary imperialism and philanthrocapitalism
Chair: Andrew Jones (University of Warwick)

Sarah Papazoglakis (University of California), Philanthropic Imperialism at the Dawn of the American Century
Caroline Reeves (Harvard University Fairbank Center), Chinese charitable work and its interplay with Western charitable actors and activities in China at the turn of the 20th century
Toby Harper (Providence College), Charity, the Queen and the OBE: Philanthrocapitalism and its Rewards


7.00 Closing remarks


7.20 Drinks reception, with informal discussion of proposed journal special issue



Workshop participants

Dr Desiree Arbo, Early Career Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick
Dr Lori J. Daggar, Assistant Professor in History, Ursinus College
Professor Regina Grafe, Professor of Early Modern History of Europe, European University Institute
Dr Tobias Harper, Assistant Professor in History, Providence College
Dr David Hitchcock, Senior Lecturer in History, Canterbury Christ Church University
Dr Andrew Jones, Teaching Fellow in Imperial History, University of Warwick
Kirsten Kamphuis, PhD candidate, European University Institute
Professor Rajesh Kochhar, Honorary Professor, Panjab University Chandigarh
Dr Julia McClure, Assistant Professor in Global History, University of Warwick
Dr Karen Melvin, Associate Professor in History, Bates College
Sarah Papazoglakis, PhD Candidate, University of California
Dr Sara Pinto, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Porto
Dr Giada Pizzoni, Teaching Fellow in Early Modern European History, University of Warwick
Dr Naomi Pullin, Teaching Fellow in Early Modern British History, University of Warwick
Dr Caroline Reeves, Associate in Research, Harvard University Fairbank Center
Dr Sara Scalenghe, Associate Professor in History, Loyola University Maryland
Dr Katharina Stornig, Junior Professor in History, Justus Liebig University Giessen
Dr Mary Wills, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Hull
Uroš Zver, PhD Candidate, European University Institute