This book challenges scholarship which presents charity and voluntary activity during World War I as marking a downturn from the high point of the late Victorian period. Charitable donations rose to an all-time peak, and the scope and nature of charitable work shifted decisively. Far more working class activists, especially women, became involved, although there were significant differences between the suburban south and industrial north of England and Scotland. The book also corrects the idea that charitably-minded civilians’ efforts alienated the men at the front, in contrast to the degree of negativity that surrounds much previous work on voluntary action in this period. Far from there being an unbridgeable gap in understanding or empathy between soldiers and civilians, the links were strong, and charitable contributions were enormously important in maintaining troop morale. This bond significantly contributed to the development and maintenance of social capital in Britain, which, in turn, strongly supported the war effort. This work draws on previously unused primary sources, notably those regarding the developing role of the UK’s Director General of Voluntary Organizations and the regulatory legislation of the period.
"Peter Grant has written a pioneering work. Packed with figures, interesting examples from case studies, and analysis linking wartime charities to social cohesion, Grant has shown that civil society and philanthropy were vital parts of Britain’s wartime effort."
Matthew C. Henley, State University of New York Oneonta in American Historical Review
1. Introduction. 2. Charity, Philanthropy and the Voluntary Sector in 1914: A "Golden Age"?. Case Study 1: Newspaper and Sporting Appeals 3. The Outbreak of War and Early Charitable Efforts. Case Study 2: "Private Tom" and Other Animals 4. Supporting Tommy: Charity Goes to War. Case Study 3: "My Good Lady, Go Home and Sit Still": Militant Women 5. The Comforts Crisis and the Director General of Voluntary Organizations. Case Study 4: Croydon War Supplies Clearing House 6. Concerns and Legislation: Scandal, Fraud and the 1916 War Charities Act. Case Study 5: Nothing Like a Book: The Camps Library 7. The Extent and Impact of War-Time Charitable Giving. Case Study 6: "The Biggest Communal Arts Project Ever Attempted": War Memorials 8. Conclusions. Afterword.