Associational voluntarism in interwar Britain

Helen McCarthy

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

Associational voluntarism in interwar Britain

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter examines the interwar voluntary sector to demonstrate that associational life did not come to be dominated by the ideologies of class and mass political parties, but rather continued to develop an independent voice, oriented towards support for liberal democracy more generally. Considering organisations such as the League of Nations Union, the National Council of Women, the Club and Institute Union, and the British Legion, it outlines the ‘ideological work’ performed by voluntary associations: educating and socialising the new mass electorate into the workings of the liberal democratic system; and assisting in the democratisation of social relations. While class, gender and religious stratification continued to exist, significant ecumenism and gender- and class-mixing meant there was ‘a democratising logic at work’.

Keywords: League of Nations Union; National Council of Women; Club and Institute Union; British Legion; voluntarism; liberal democracy; democratisation

Chapter.  8668 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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