History of Volunteering
I’m really interested in the tracking and tracing the origins of volunteering concepts and ideas. I’ve posted a number of bits on this.
Charting the rise of a new kind of approach and understanding of politeness, I think offers us a window into the origins of volunteering. Politeness is a very modern idea that originated in English society as social barriers and courtly model of respect and deference was challenged in favour of a more liberal approach.
That moment where as a society we began to think more about our social duties and responsibilities to other members of society in a radical new way, laid the basis for what we now consider to be a key part of volunteering: namely- how to help others beyond your immediate family or community.
Our usage of the words volunteer and volunteering in their current sense are pretty recent. It is important to look before the terminology used, to trace the origins of the concepts behind what we understand as volunteering today.
There’s a complex moral debate underlying much of our modern day thinking about volunteering. It’s interesting to consider the examples of some of the most active and prominent Victorian ‘Do-Gooders’ and what it tells us about the current debates about volunteering.
It is interesting to compare the origins of the ideas behind volunteering, with the development about the theoretical notion of the ‘stranger’ in the mid-1800s. As societies across Europe were transformed by the industrial revolution, there was greater urbanisation and communities built up used to regular contact with fellow ‘strangers’.