History seminars at the IHR

Voluntary Action History

This seminar series is organised by the Committee of the Voluntary Action History Society (VAHS). VAHS aims to advance the historical understanding and analysis of voluntary action through seminars, occasional conferences and symposia. Please see http://www.vahs.org.uk for further information.

Convenor: Colin Rochester (LSE) cirochester@macace.net

  Cait Beaumont (London South Bank University); Kerrie Holloway (Queen Mary, University of London); Sarah Lloyd (University of Hertfordshire); Michael Nelles (Southampton University); Alison Penn (Open University); Bill Rushbrooke (Practical Wisdom R2Z); Bob Snape (University of Bolton); Megan Webber (University of Hertfordshire); Meta Zimmeck (Practical Wisdom R2Z)


Venue: Room 304, third floor, IHR, North block, Senate House, unless otherwise noted in the programme, below

Time: Monday 5.30pm

Some podcasts from this Seminar are available online

Autumn Term 2015
DateSeminar details
19 October National Kitchens in the First World War

Dr Bryce Evans (Liverpool Hope University)

16 November Witness Seminar: A Place in a Community

Mike Locke (Ex University of East London and Volunteering England)

Mike Locke reflects on his involvement in community politics in the Notting Hill/ North Kensington area of London in the 1970s and 1980s. He focuses on his part in creating in 1978 a trailblazing comprehensive centre for children under 5 and their parents, Maxilla Nursery Centre (“a famous leader in a very deprived patch” Polly Toynbee, The Guardian 2 June 2015, p27), and engaging as a trustee and activist.  He explores his involvement in Maxilla Nursery Centre in the contexts of:

  • the history of community organisation in Notting Hill, featuring the importance of a long view of activism from the 1950s to the 1970s and current events, and reflecting on his place in this community;  
  • the changing relationships between the voluntary organisation and the local authorities, leading the centre’s closure in July 2015.

These explorations hope to contribute to:

  • inspiration and work for a community history; and
  • analysis of the role of voluntary organisations in progressing social policy.

Mike Locke is now an independent adviser and writer, previously with NCVO, Volunteering England and University of East London and joint founder of the Institute for Volunteering Research. His involvement in community politics inspired his development of research and teaching on voluntary action.

30 November I never wanted to participate in a charity: Women's relationship to voluntary work within the UK Women's Liberation Movement

Dr Bridget Lockyer (Canterbury Christ Church University)

This seminar considers the voluntary work carried out by women in the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, using the WLM in Bradford, West Yorkshire, as a case study. Two of the most notable and enduring voluntary organisations which evolved from the movement are Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid. However, there were dozens of WLM initiatives in each town and city across the country which provided services for women, including women’s health centres and crèches. Women gave up their time and money to set up and participate in these activities, but this work was often conceptualised by themselves and others as political activism rather than voluntary work. This seminar will examine this ambivalence towards charity and their desire to distance themselves from the traditional role of the volunteer. It will also discuss how these women negotiated their relationships with public services, and the processes of bureaucratisation and professionalisation their organisations underwent in order to be seen as legitimate

14 December Charity in the Georgian Era: Lessons for Today?

Dr Andrew Rudd (University of Exeter)

This paper offers a cultural history of charity from the beginning of the Georgian era in 1714 to the implementation of the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 (the 'New Poor Law'). Literary historian Andrew Rudd will examine textual and visual representations of: charity institutions such as the Foundling Hospital; acts of charity in the writings of Dorothy and William Wordsworth; and pre-Reformation charity, which, he argues, formed a strong cultural memory in the period.

The second part of the paper goes on to consider parallels between the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century debate and questions facing charity leaders and policymakers today, drawing on Rudd's experience as former Parliamentary Manager at the Charity Commission.

The paper will take a 'long view' at issues such as the role of charity in relation to the state and the power of represention in shaping attitudes to charity - themes illuminated by the period's literature and art. The paper will, it is hoped, indicate the shared concerns between the charities in the Georgian era and today.