The root of the word philanthropy means “love of” (philo-) “mankind” (anthropos), but in practice, it has a more restricted definition: the voluntary giving of private wealth for the public good.

The novelty of modern philanthropy is its impersonality; while people have helped their kin and neighbors for as long as human societies have existed, the voluntary transfer of money to strangers is quintessentially modern. Historians have documented the existence of personal almsgiving back to the ancient Egyptians, and every major religion encourages philanthropy. However, the institution of philanthropy did not gain legal status until the Charitable Uses Act of 1601 in Tudor England, and its widespread popularity was not secured until the Victorian era, when philanthropy became a prominent means of responding to the needs ...

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