The ages of voluntarism

Matthew Hilton and James Mckay

in The Ages of Voluntarism

Published by British Academy

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264829
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754036 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Original Paperbacks

The ages of voluntarism

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This introductory chapter provides the historical background to the rise of the Big Society, surveying the history of voluntarism over the last century. Politicians and commentators have long bemoaned the supposed decline of civic life, fretting about its health and its future. In fact, the real story of voluntarism over the last hundred years has not been decline, but constant evolution and change. Whether the terms charity, philanthropy, civil society, non-governmental organisations, the third sector or the Big Society are used, voluntary endeavour is one of the most vibrant and dynamic areas of British public life. Voluntarism not only continues to thrive, but is also far larger than any political agenda that may be imposed upon it.

Keywords: voluntarism; voluntary sector; civil society; civic life; philanthropy; Big Society; charity; twentieth-century Britain; third sector; non-governmental organisations

Chapter.  10350 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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