From the Editors

A Review of 2015 & Looking to 2016

Thinking back over this year, many thanks to the 500 Twitter followers, 300 email subscribers, and over forty contributors who have made this site an exciting place for conversations on the history of philanthropy.  Fellow HistPhil co-founders Stanley N. Katz, Benjamin Soskis, and I launched the website this past summer with the dual purpose of strengthening the field and bringing together practitioners and scholars in common dialogue on the past, present, and future of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. As regular readers know, we began in June with a general discussion of the field and soon thereafter with a forum on philanthropy & democracy. Against the backdrop of Ford Foundation President Darren Walker’s announced efforts to address inequalities on the global stage, we followed with another conversation on the ability of philanthropy to address societal-wide inequities. Most recently, contributors discussed the role of philanthropy in education, and the distinctions between charity and philanthropy. In January, we will begin with a forum on the Green Revolution, followed by another on philanthropy & the state. Please write to us if you would like to contribute to either exchange. And as always, please continue to reach out to us about books, articles, reports, and other material that address the history of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors and that you’d like HistPhil to address.  

Later in the spring, we plan to host a forum on “the most important documents in philanthropy.” For example, while arguing philanthropy’s place in a democracy during a Q&A on HistPhil earlier this year, Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer made mention of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835, 1840). From his end, Ford Foundation President Walker repeatedly has discussed Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth (1889) in public presentations of the organization’s newly framed agenda. And far from unique, several HistPhil contributors such as Emma Saunders-Hastings, Olivier Zunz, Thomas Adam, Benjamin Soskis, and I have referred to both texts in our examinations of the philanthropic sector today.

This spring, we’d like to dialogue on these and other central texts of the philanthropic sector and ask how– and whether– they might still inform contemporary philanthropy. In drafting this list of leading sources, we would like to solicit your help. Please write in and let us know what you recommend as the five most important documents in philanthropy (and whom you’d like to see write about these texts)!

Happy New Year, and again, thank you for making HistPhil a lively intellectual community.

-Maribel Morey, HistPhil co-editor

One thought on “A Review of 2015 & Looking to 2016

  1. Recommended reading: Alexander Hamilton’s First Federalist Paper, esp. the opening paragraph, which is the locus classicus for “American philanthropy”—placing our nation explicitly and squarely in the Classical Promethean tradition of “loving [cultivating] what it is to be human.”


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