Charities in Warwickshire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries


Recent decades have seen proliferating debate about charity and welfare provision. Passing beyond a satisfaction with the welfare state in its mid-twentieth century form, such discussion has been associated with the contested revision of state welfare, with the ways in which public sympathies were drawn to third-world famine and related crises, and with the possible effects of national lotteries upon charitable giving. Historians need to set such modern concerns into perspective, and this thesis is a historically focused contribution towards that. It explores the changing legal, structural and social aspects of charity in Warwickshire. Warwickshire was chosen partly to redress the generalised or metropolitan bias of many previous studies. The county comprised the ancient city of Coventry, the burgeoning conurbation of Birmingham and a varied rural hinterland. It thus provides three very different socio-economic contexts within which to examine the operation of charitable institutions and organisations. The thesis takes a long perspective on charity - bearing in mind the ancient origins and legal forms of charity - although the main focus is on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The period under closest consideration straddles the pivotal decades in English history from the mid-1780s to the mid-1830s, during which there was a major reassessment of social responsibility. This was manifested by much debate on the role of public welfare and private charity, with the poor law enquiries resulting in important legal revisions. At the same time, there was a shift in the foundation of new charities from the endowed to the voluntary form. This transitional period has been little studied by historians of charity, and the present work goes some way towards filling this lacuna. The thesis begins with a review of the historiography of charity and of the theoretical writing on the subject, both historical and modern. Chapter 2 explores the development of the law governing endowed charities, which itself reflected changing attitudes towards charity and its recipients. The next two chapters are detailed analyses of the structures of endowed and voluntary charities, and of the incidence of the two types in Warwickshire. Having drawn out the distinctiveness of these forms of charity, the following two chapters examine their similar objectives. An investigation is made of the ways in which these objectives were pursued by endowed and voluntary charities, organised under the headings of the promotion of religion, the advancement of education, the relief of poverty, and other objects of public utility. Among the concerns here are whether certain objects were more likely to be supported by one form of charity than another, and whether there were any changes over time in the kind of support given. The way in which voluntary and endowed charities interacted with each other and with agencies of the state, sometimes in co-operation and sometimes in competition, emerges from this examination. The final chapter examines the motivations for and meanings of the charitable impulse, and discusses patterns of localism and tradition which informed charitable acts even at the end of the nineteenth century.





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Pinches, Sylvia Margaret., “Charities in Warwickshire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” Centre for English Local History Theses and Papers, accessed December 7, 2022,