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Dinner Speech - Todd Carmody


The Science of Begging: Charity and Fundraising Around 1900

Dr. Todd Carmody
English Literature and American Studies
Harvard University

The Science of Begging: Charity and Fundraising Around 1900
When Feb 08, 2017
from 05:30 PM to 06:00 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, seminar room
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 (0)761 203-97362
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In both England and the United States, the end of the nineteenth century brought about a radical change in private philanthropy. After decades of economic depression and social disorder, reformers were united in the conviction that the “indiscriminate almsgiving” of the past could do little to help the poor. Whether handed out to distressed “beggars” on the street or arbitrarily disbursed by private organizations, such “gratuitous relief” could only foster laziness, dependency, and a lack of self-reliance. In place of such heartfelt but misguided generosity, the new doctrine of “scientific charity” promised to transform private philanthropy into a wholly rational enterprise. Rather than cash relief, members of the “dependent, defective, and delinquent classes” were to receive the training and  assistance they needed to reenter the workforce. But if scientific charity thus promised to make begging a thing of the past, this talk explores how older practices of alms-seeking actually shaped the development of modern philanthropy. Nowhere is this legacy more pronounced than in institutional fundraising, where at the turn of the century begging itself became a science.