The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


What We’re Reading

As we put together each show, we producers read… a lot. Here are a few of the books and articles that helped us put this episode together – some from our guests, some on background.


9780472118861Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices
Sheila Moeschen

University of Michigan Press, 2010.

Moeschen traces examines the relationship between entertainment and charity in America, from 19th century melodramas such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. As much as these spectacles are about holding the attention of an increasingly jaded and sophisticated audience, Moeschen argues charitable performance also transform the image of recipients of charity from passive and pitiable to relatable.

“Private Wealth, Public Interest”
Johann Neem
Common-Place, vol. 7, no. 4. July 2007.

Neem examines the reluctance to allow private family foundation in the early republic, particularly on the part of Thomas Jefferson, who wanted to disrupt the inheritance of family wealth as much as possible.

jpegPoverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy and the Poor in 20th Century U.S. History
Alice O’Connor
Princeton University Press, 2002

The way Americans have visualized poverty over the twentieth century has varied dramatically – from the outcome of unemployment and low wages, to an issue of “dependance” that could be solved. O’Connor follows the scholarship on “the poverty problem,” as it transforms from an issue of structural inequality to one of individual reform.


jpeg-1The New Victorians: Poverty, Politics, and Propaganda in Two Gilded Ages
Stephen Pimpare
The New Press, 2004

Kimpare compares the claims of today’s “compassionate conservatives” with arguments in the Victorian age that sought to limit government aid to poor and working class citizens, on the grounds that it created dependence, and links the opposition to government relief to the belief that private philanthropy was superior.


41xbQoRUK9L._SL500_AA300_“Delicious Horrors:” Mass Culture, The Red Cross, and the Appeal of Modern American Humanitarianism
Kevin Rozario
American Quarterly, Vol 55, no.3, 2003

Rozario traces the beginnings of a new type of outreach to donors at the beginning of the twentieth century, as the Red Cross, forced to compete with increasingly sophisticated commercial advertising and entertainment, began using increasingly sensationalistic stories to drum up interest in their causes.

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