Paul Vallely

Source Notes

Praise for this book  

 “This is the definitive book on philanthropy – its history, contradictions and future.

“Exploring its Jewish, Christian and classical roots, showing how it was transformed by the Black Death, examining the changing role of the state and the dangers of philanthrocapitalism, among other key issues, Philanthropy – from Aristotle to Zuckerberg is a deep and probing study of a highly complex practice that is an increasingly powerful force in our world.”

John Gray

Emeritus Professor of European Thought, London School of Economics

“Timely and facinating”

Peter Hennessy

Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London

“There are good books and there are important books. Good books lay out the lie of the land. Important books change it. This book does both.

“Beautifully written, passionately argued and crammed full of fascinating detail, Paul Vallely insists that giving needs to restore its spiritual dimension whereby the giver respects the one who receives – something we have lost sight of with modern philanthro-capitalism’s drive for greater efficiency.”

 Giles Fraser

priest and philosopher

“A magisterial treatment of the history of Western philanthropy. Paul Vallely has produced the best single volume on the ideas that have shaped philanthropy, the institutional arrangements that have structured it, and the outsized personalities that have marked it.

“Vallely’s book immerses you in the history of philanthropy with an eye toward informing you about its present-day practices, potential, and problems. Stuffed with astonishing stories and illuminating interviews, this book will be a lasting resource for scholars, philanthropic and NGO leaders, and individual donors.”

Rob Reich

Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and author of ‘Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better’.


“Paul Vallely has done all those involved in philanthropy a service with this comprehensive and panoramic overview of the field.”

Beth Breeze

Director of the Centre for Philanthropy
University of Kent

“Deeply researched and wonderfully written, this book is much more than a sweeping, erudite history. It is a fascinating exploration of why people give – and a powerful call for philanthropy to do a better job of melding empathy with effectiveness.”

David Callahan

Editor of Inside Philanthropy

and author of ‘The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age’

Philanthropy is as awesome in breadth as it is meticulous in detail… helpfully broken up with interviews that provide a great deal of illumination about different approaches to giving.”

Martin Vander Weyer

Literary Review

“A chronicle every bit as encyclopaedic as the title suggests, Paul Vallely … does a thorough job”

Leslie Lenkowsky 

Wall Street Journal

“This book… deserves the widest possible readership.

“Paul Vallely has poured five years of research into a highly readable yet deeply serious exploration of the paths taken by the instinct and duty to give.

“Tracing the historical origins and influences which formed traditions and practices of almsgiving and philanthropy, Vallely identifies the issues at stake for society and for the political order, as well as the murky brew of personal motiv­ations at play…. The scholarship involved is profound but lightly worn.”

Pat Jones

The Tablet

“ “An important new book…monumental but highly readable… a comprehensive blending of scholarly historical research, insights from his own and other’s experience, and the challenging questions of a diligent journalist. 

“There are two books here for the price of one: a history of philanthropy and an exploration of the ethics of philanthropy…

“Vallely, like a judge clarifying the defence and prosecution cases for a jury, takes the reader through the ethical challenges and strategic issues raised by philanthrocapitalism.”

Ian Linden

The Article

“Meticulously researched…  every chapter is rich in wonderful asides and anecdotes

Alan Billings

Church Times


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“A formidable achievement” – John Cornwell, Times Literary Supplement

“A sophisticated biography’ – Luke Coppen, The Independent

“Indispensable” – James Carroll, the New Yorker

“Masterly” – Julian Coman , The Observer

“Tough-minded analysis” – Mark Lawson, The Guardian

“A compelling account” – John Wilkins, the Church Times

“Thoroughly convincing… Read this book, forget the rest” – Michael Walsh, The Tablet