Investing in charities in the nineteenth century: The financialization of philanthropy

Maltby, Josephine and Rutterford, Janette (2016). Investing in charities in the nineteenth century: The financialization of philanthropy. Accounting History, 21(2-3) pp. 263–280.



This study deals with the impact of financialization on the development of charity during the nineteenth century. We argue that this has two key aspects: firstly, the growth of charitable provision via limited companies; and secondly, the financial audit by charities of the claimants who approached them. Limited companies operated mainly in the field of subsidized housing. These offered investors a satisfactory return, but at the cost of requirements regarding the level of rent and the behaviour expected from tenants which restricted the number of potential beneficiaries. The evaluation of claimants by charities was pioneered by, but not limited to, the new Charities Organization Society. This constituted a form of audit, with enquiry into claimants’ behaviour, financial status and prospects, and a refusal to support those seen as unreliable or unpredictable. We argue that these developments have significant implications for the social enterprise movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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