European philanthropy and the business of giving

This research project uses extensive archival sources to explore the work of European entrepreneurs and philanthropic foundations in order to explore their strategies and impact on global society.

A woman offering a ball of money.

Project overview

Philanthropy is a major feature of many economies and provides significant investment in agriculture, education, health and scientific research. Whilst research in this area has contemplated the political and strategic dimensions of philanthropic giving, profound questions remain regarding the role that entrepreneurs and institutions have in shaping and supporting socio-economic processes and outcomes.  

This research explores the emergence of entrepreneurial philanthropists in Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This is a period when philanthropy became mainstream, developing from the ‘gilded age’ of giving during the 1920s into a fully-fledged industry of its own. Philanthropy has tended to be viewed through the lens of North American entrepreneurs and industrialists, however there is a strong tradition of large-scale philanthropy in Europe and within the United Kingdom particularly.  

The research promotes an interdisciplinary approach bringing together history, geography and business research. Given the areas in which philanthropists fund, it is crucial we understand their activities, where they are located, and why they have emerged in order to appreciate their regional, national and global impacts.

Entrepreneurs and industrialists have an established history of creating philanthropic organisations to shape wider economic and social activities and this research project uses extensive archival sources to explore the work of European entrepreneurs and philanthropic foundations. The work analyses the challenges that are faced when business and philanthropy collide and the growth of organised giving as a critical instrument in influencing critical public infrastructure and research projects. 

Staff involved

Alongside Dr Tom Buckley, Senior Lecturer in International Business (Strategy and Marketing) at the University of Sussex Business School. 

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