Session at the European Social Science History Conference, Glasgow University, Scotland, UK, 11 - 14 April 2012, in the Social Inequality Network
Keeping account of charity: account-books as a source for individual charitableness
Organizer: Henk Looijesteijn & Marco van Leeuwen
In 1627 the Dutch burgomaster Jacob van Brouckhoven (1577-1642) started keeping a register in which he recorded all charitable expenses he made. He used it to record the expenses on the almshouse he built, but he also registered the couples he housed in some of his property, occasional alms to individuals, the annual stipend he gave a poor relative, and the donations he made to several institutions of poor relief.
Studies of poor relief and charity often focus on institutional sources, but these give us only insight into part of the complete range of charitableness people in the past engaged in. People did not just found and build almshouses, bequeath part of their estate to the poor or join in collections held by institutions engaging in poor relief: they also gave alms to beggars in the street, housed poor people in their backyard or contributed to their upkeep. This informal relief however seldom made it into the records of poor relief institutions, and thus often escapes the notice of historians.
To circumvent this problem, a seldom used, let alone systematically studied, source should be considered: the account-books of individuals, in which they recorded their income and expenses. Along entries informing us on the cost of life and the sort of things people bought, they often also include entries on charitable expenses. Separate charitable account-books like Jacob van Brouckhoven’s will have been rare; but one might expect that people conscientious enough to keep track of their expenses also recorded what they gave to poor relief in all its guises.
We would like to invite contributions from all periods and cultures on charitable expenses in account-books. Questions which we would like to see addressed are: what did people give, how, when and where? How frequent were these expenses? Can one say anything about the charitable percentage of the total of their expenses? Did they write anything on their motivations for giving? From what class were they? And finally: do account-books exist of people receiving poor relief?
Please send your paper proposal (c. 500 words) as soon as possible, but before 25 April 2011 to Henk Looijesteijn: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Henk Looijesteijn
Postdoc researcher NWO-project Giving in the Golden Age
International Institute of Social History
PO Box 2169
1000 CD Amsterdam
# 31 20 8500341 Email: email@example.com
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