Funding philanthropy: Dr Bernardo’s metaphors, narratives and spectacles

Document Type



Liverpool University Press


School of Arts and Humanities




Ash, S. (2016). Funding philanthropy: Dr Bernardo’s metaphors, narratives and spectacles. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Available here


Funding Philanthropy investigates Dr Barnardo’s work and philanthropic ‘empire’ as early manifestations of promotional and branding mechanisms in the mid- to late-Victorian period, processes that would seem commonplace by the mid- to late-twentieth century. Barnardo possessed a strategic sense of what would excite people’s interest and pity, as well as a seemingly unfailing capacity to package and promote evangelical philanthropy on behalf of children, the nation and the Empire. Thus, the book explores Barnardo as creative promoter and ‘showman,’ a savvy entrepreneur in an evangelical context that overtly mandated against privileging business principles generally, and the practice of direct appeal specifically. To manage the business of philanthropy, Barnardo operated as narrator, orchestrator, and showman, depending upon artfully constructed bodies, images and stories as imperatives for emotional engagement and collective participation. Funding Philanthropy offers new knowledge to anyone interested in Victorian history, conceptualising children, literary modes, and marketing practices. The book also considers how Barnardo’s conception of charity is closely aligned with principles of unconditional hospitality, precisely at a moment in time when the English were intent on centralising philanthropy and on meting out support according to measures Barnardo regarded as punitive and unchristian. Part One explicates how institutional branding evolved according to the properties associated with the metaphor of the ‘open door’; Part Two elucidates how narrative devices associated with fiction raise both affect and funds; Part Three concentrates on how Barnardo exploited strategies associated with dramatic performance in public spectacles, despite his adamant strictures against the theatre itself. Discussion burrows down to elucidate such events as highly ritualised Annual General Meetings, child picnics, as well as ubiquitous ‘bazaars’ and self-denial drives. Extensive research in Barnardo’s vast archive of periodical publication for children, youth and adults and the wider public press underpin the discursive analysis.

  1. The book is the only scholarly monograph that focuses on Dr Barnardo’s philanthropic practices in contrast to existing research that examined Barnardo as one of many child ‘rescuers’ in the wider context of child philanthropy. 2. The book takes up where other research culminates, to focus not on the charismatic, personal character of Dr Barnardo, but rather on his practices that led to the global phenomenon associated with his name and child rescue. 3. The book’s structural concepts: metaphor, narrative and spectacle, set this discussion apart from other publications on Barnardo, considering how each operated as promotional ‘lures’ in a globalised charity market. 4. Where other scholars have considered child rescue and reform rhetoric an exemplar of melodrama, this book investigates how notions associated with the Gothic explain Barnardo’s attempts to make sense of, and to package a discursive version of the ‘nightmare’ that threatened English social order. 5. While the research is underpinned by current theories related to metaphor, narrative, spectacle, as well as hospitality, the discussion is written in a reader friendly, accessible style, presuming no pre-existing theoretical or biographical knowledge.