Later this week we’ll be heading to Huddersfield for the Voluntary Action History Society’s Fifth International Research Conference. A VAHS conference is always an occasion. In addition to a packed three days of papers presenting the latest research into the history of charity, campaigning and civil society, there will be a conference dinner, a history quiz and a visit to Saltaire, with Sir Titus Salt’s Mill and the David Hockney gallery.
We were grateful to the Economic History Society and the History Workshop Journal, who each agreed to fund a VAHS New Researchers prize bursary for the conference. The two winners have each posted a feature article about their research on this blog. Our June feature was from Emily Baughan on her doctoral research at the University of Bristol into the early history of the Save the Children Fund and the rights of stateless children in the interwar years. Our July feature was from Marie-Luise Ermisch on her doctoral research at Canada’s McGill University into Oxfam’s Operation Oasis that took secondary school students to developing countries in the 1960s. I’m looking forward to hearing their papers at the conference.
One of the highlights of the last VAHS conference was the plenary address entitled ‘From Benevolence to Philanthropy, 1700-1900’ given by Emeritus Professor Hugh Cunningham (click above for the podcast). He has since had a 3-part series on BBC Radio 4 exploring the question ‘How New is the New Philanthropy?’, which you can still listen to here.
This year we have two excellent historians taking on this role. The conference will open with an address from our host, the University of Huddersfield’s Professor Barry Doyle. His conference lecture, ‘”Those who have for generations given of their best”: The Networks of Voluntary Action since 1870’ will examine the centrality of individuals and their networks in building and sustaining voluntary action at a range of levels from the village WI to international and transnational organisations.
We will also have a secondary plenary lecture from Professor Ellen Ross of Ramapo College, New Jersey, author of Love and Toil: Motherhood in Outcast London. She will be giving a paper on Francesca Wilson (1888-1981), who was involved in the relief work of both world wars with long stretches in Serbia, Austria, Russia, Spain, Hungary, and as an UNRRA worker in Germany. Professor Ross will explore what Wilson’s career can tell us about the professionalization of relief work in the twentieth century.
In between these plenaries there’s what looks to be a programme packed full of papers on fascinating topics from some excellent researchers. Personally, I can’t wait!