The study of philanthropy has transcended the structure of traditional disciplines, often involving non-historians in historical analysis. This book presents professional historians addressing the dominant issues and theories offered to explain the history of American philanthropy and its role in American society. The essays develop and enlighten the major themes proposed by the book's editors, in some instances taking issue with each other in the process. The overarching premise is that philanthropic activity in America has its roots in the desires of individuals to impose their visions of societal ideals or conceptions of truth upon their society. To do so, they have organized in groups, frequently defining themselves and their group's role in society in the process.
'As a volume offering a view of the current 'state of the field', this work is arguably the most important historical study of philanthropy to be published in recent years ... Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility should certainly inspire future historians to tackle the topic and, perhaps more important, it will provide practitioners and nonhistorians with a deeper understanding of the roots of American philanthropy.' Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly '... the editors have produced a book that reflects the research and thinking of the current generation of American history scholars ... The book goes a long way toward addressing the lack of sustained historical research into philanthropy. It shows yet again that Americans saw themselves as cooperative members of groups and societies more than as isolated individuals.' Institute of Historical Research '... timely and much needed ... a well-designed, perceptive and stimulating book. The volume never loses track of the larger historical context and rarely gets bogged down in overly specialised case studies. Moreover, Friedman and McGarvie avoid the pitfalls of many edited collections ...'. www.history.ac.uk