The Foundations of the Age of Benevolence in Britain, 1690-1740

In the early eighteenth century, voluntary associations were enshrined at the heart of British public life. The philanthropy and sociability of these organizations underpinned a self-proclaimed “age of benevolence” - how may we account for this moral valorization of civil society in Britain? Presented by The Library, Hurford Humanities Center, and the Office of Alumni Relations.

The Library, the John B. Hurford '60 Humanities Center, and the Office of Alumni Relations present a Young Academic Alumni Lecture Series talk by Brent S. Sirota '98, North Carolina State University, entitled “The Foundations of the Age of Benevolence in Britain, 1690-1740.”

In the early eighteenth century, voluntary associations were enshrined at the heart of British public life. The philanthropy and sociability of these organizations underpinned a self-proclaimed “age of benevolence” in which clubs, societies, and projects were designated the preeminent instruments of social improvement, religious renewal and moral reform. How may we account for this moral valorization of civil society in Britain? This paper will trace the origins of the “age of benevolence” to the defeat of absolutism in the Revolution of 1688-1689. By recovering the revolutionary origins of British civil society, it will be possible to view the eighteenth century “age of benevolence” as a key moment in both the rise of British liberalism and the development of the British state.

Tea at 4:15 P.M.

Sponsored by a generous grant from The Leaves of Grass Foundation.