Charity and capitalism: commercial and religious networks in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world


Panel organizer: Len von Morzé, English Dept., Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston


The plans for the creation of the colony of Georgia included not only imperial designs, but also considerations of commerce, religion, and philanthropy. The latter topics have, in recent accounts of eighteenth-century America, been displaced by a concern with imperial politics and colonial strategy. This panel seeks to bring the topics of charity and capitalism back into consideration of colonial and early republican America, taking as a starting point the origin of the planned city of Savannah in the proposals of Oglethorpe and his Trustees. The panel seeks papers that reflect on the overlap between religious and commercial networks in the Atlantic world, and that address questions such as the following: What institutional, intellectual, and/or ideological links connected charity and capitalism, mercy and commerce, liberality and economic liberalism? What early arguments for (or critiques of) capitalism were implicit in the writing of participants in these networks? What attitudes toward the laboring and “deserving” poor are reflected in this literature? How did the propaganda or satire of early Georgia (or of related colonial experiments) contribute to larger trends in the representation of charity in English (e.g., Mandeville, Fielding), German (e.g., Francke), or other languages? How were political/imperial designs (about colonial management of populations, about the preservation of political virtue, etc.) reflected (or not) in the reality on the ground? What institutions (workhouses and factories, schools and orphanages) do we need to think about? Can we speak of a “humanitarian sensibility” growing out of market expansion? This interdisciplinary panel invites adventurous papers that take a range of approaches: literary and cultural studies; micro-historical accounts; neo-Weberian considerations of economy, religion, and affect; etc.

Send your 250-word paper abstract to Len von Morzé at by Friday, September 7, 2012.