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

Spring Term 2016
DateSeminar details
18 January A Study of Philanthropy: the Charitable Account Books of Lord Overstone, 1844-1883

Sarah Flew (LSE)

Samuel Jones -Loyd, Lord Overstone (1796-1883) is an exemplar of nineteenth century philanthropy. He rose from a modest birth, as the son of a Welsh Unitarian minister, to become one of the most influential bankers of the Victorian age. This study of his philanthropy, painstakingly recorded in four decades of charitable account books, give a nuanced picture of both the man himself and the landscape of charitable causes across the mid nineteenth century. In this 40 year period, Overstone’s over 2,900 charitable donations fall naturally into six domains: donations relating to religious causes (mainly but not exclusively relating to the Church of England); donations relating to welfare and educational causes (particularly relating to those hospitals where he was a committee members); donations relating to art and cultural causes; donations relating to specific geographic localities which he had an attachment; donations relating to domestic and international incidents or crises; and finally donations to individuals (which included staff, family and friends). This analysis highlights the complex nature of philanthropy and attempts to address that elusive concept of “motive”.

15 February Humanities activists and humanitarian aid in the First World War: G.M. Trevelyan, the British Red Cross and the Italian wounded

Marcella Sutcliffe (University of Cambridge)

In 1915, as Italy entered the war on the side of the Allies, a group of British humanities scholars formed the British Committee in Aid of the Italian Wounded. At the head of them was Cambridge historian, G.M. Trevelyan, who organised a convoy of British Red Cross vehicles to cross Europe and reach the theatre of war in the North-Eastern Italian Alps. Amongst Trevelyan’s fellow scholars were Thomas Ashby, archaeologist, photographer and Director of the British School at Rome and Francis William Sargant, a sculptor in Florence. As fluent Italian-speakers, these men and other BSR men and women eased the communications between the British nurses and the Italian wounded. Yet the peculiarity of this group of volunteers rested in their commitment to the arts and humanities; as ‘humanities activists’  these scholars were confident in their ability to boost morale and provide ‘spiritual ammunition’  to  allied soldiers in the so-called ‘European war’. They were based on the Isonzo front, at Villa Trento, a place which became known behind the war zone for its ‘home comforts’, which included theatre performances and pantomimes. It was here that these British humanities activists were able to play their part in the transnational contest of internationalist aid.