Supporting self-help: charity, mutuality and reciprocity in nineteenth-century Britain

Weinbren, Daniel (2007). Supporting self-help: charity, mutuality and reciprocity in nineteenth-century Britain. In: Bridgen, Paul and Bernard, Harris eds. Charity and Mutual Aid in Europe and North America Since 1800. Routledge Studies in Modern History. Routledge, pp. 67–88.



This chapter is important because the theoretical insights of Granovetter’s work on weak ties and Mauss’ on gift exchange are employed in order to invert the conventional taxonomy, which separates friendly societies and charities. In foregrounding the overlapping range of activities, functions, members and structures of friendly societies and charities the chapter demonstrates that both forms of organisation placed importance upon reciprocity and maintaining relationships, both drew upon the traditions of the guilds and both operated within the context of widespread familiarity with cycles of exchange. This illuminates how power circulated within and between charities and friendly societies and how, even as friendly societies became less dependent on patrons, ties of trust with charities were created and renewed. It also highlights the centrality of charities and mutual aid to the maintenance of social stability and to the development of civic politics and kinship survival strategies.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 7893
  • Item Type
  • Book Section
  • ISBN
  • 0-415-36559-7, 978-0-415-36559-8
  • Keywords
  • reciprocity; charity; fraternity; Britain; nineteenth-century
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2007 The Editors
  • Depositing User
  • Daniel Weinbren