In these two related articles the history of social work in late Victorian England is understood by aligning it not with self-consciously held ideologies of, say, bourgeois capitalism, patriarchy, evangelical Protestantism, or liberal humanism, but with the complex cultural system of modernity. It is hoped to problematize both the genealogy and the substance of early social work that now so decisively shapes our interpretations of the influences of late Victorian philanthropy. The history of social work has to be treated seriously if we are to properly understand the present day situation in terms of modernity and investigate its orientation more thoroughly. This first paper offers a history of social work which draws attention to the imbrications of a secular modernity and how its governing ideas, texts and discourses of the time influence philanthropy. It examines dominant modernist themes that had a significant impact on the emergence of social work and the important role of the Charity Organization Society. It is suggested that these themes form part of a shared European heritage. Whilst the influences of modernity on social work are likely to have been uneven, there were common conditions faced by people in Europe and shared developments that gave way to the rise of social work in the nineteenth century.
European Journal of Social Work Vol. 10, Issue 1, p. 39-54