Voluntarism and the impact of the First World War

Peter Grant

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

Voluntarism and the impact of the First World War

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter considers the experience of the First World War to demonstrate that state mobilisation does not necessarily crowd out voluntary endeavour. While the scale of volunteering to fight in that conflict has long been appreciated, the equivalent voluntary effort on the home front has been neglected by historians. This chapter charts the scale, coordination and regulation of this voluntary activity, from the establishment of the National Relief Fund, to the appointment of a Director General of Voluntary Organisations in 1915 and the 1916 War Charities Act. It is argued that the War encouraged professionalisation and innovation within the charity sector, while also embedding a notion of voluntarism working hand in hand with the state.

Keywords: First World War; National Relief Fund; voluntary organisations; charity; professionalisation; volunteering; voluntarism

Chapter.  8103 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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