For the HistPhil online publication, Amanda Moniz of the National History Center in DC discusses conversations on philanthropy, humanitarianism, and human rights that occurred at this year's SHAFR conference.
This blog examines the history of philanthropy, but references to humanitarianism keep cropping up and in such a way that suggests the two concepts are related but distinct. One difference, between the fields if not concepts, as a few HistPhil entries have suggested, is that the historical investigation of humanitarianism is in vogue, while the study of philanthropy needs some priming. From my perspective as a historian of the eighteenth-century Anglophone Atlantic world, the two words seem interchangeable, so why do others distinguish them? Conversations at the recent annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) got me thinking more about the historical relationship between those words and concepts.
The relationship between humanitarianism and philanthropy and how the definition and use of these concepts changes over time is one of the subjects of her post.
The activities my subjects and Merle Curti alike termed “philanthropy” are now called, most often, “humanitarian.” Philanthropy, for its part, typically now brings to American minds big foundations or large benefactions by wealthy individuals. What does the shift in language tell us about changes in beneficent agendas?