A Global History of Giving: from Begging to Basic Income HIST4262

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides an overview of the history of charity from a global perspective. Starting in Late Antiquity and stretching to present day debates, it aims to provide students with an historical overview of the history of charity in Western Europe, the historic relationships between charity and empire, and the emergence of welfare states and international development. We will explore the role of religions in the concepts and practices of charity as well as comparing the different cultural practices and institutional sites of charity. Students will compare the different forms of charity that emerged in different societies and at different times, and to consider the ways in which these were transformed by global processes.


15x1hr lectures, 5x1hr seminar over 10 weeks as scheduled in MyCampus. This is one of the honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation. 

Excluded Courses





Essay (3000 words) - 55%

Written assignment (2000 words) - 35%

Seminar Presentation with handout or PowerPoint (8 minutes) with handout or PowerPoint - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:


■ Provide students with the opportunity to engage with contemporary historiographical debates about global history and to use global history as a tool for understanding the complexities of the history of charity

■ Introduce students to the different dimensions and cultural meanings of regimes for the redistribution of resources and other strategies of social assistance that have developed around the world in different societies and at different times.

■ Introduce students to different disciplinary approaches to the study of charity (such as anthropology, economics, and law), to assess the merits and demerits of these approaches and the ways they may contribute to global histories of charity.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ understand the religious, legal and cultural dimensions of charitable practices as well as their socio-economic functions.

■ compare the different systems of charity that have been produced by different societies at different times and in different places and to assess how local systems of social assistance may have been transformed by global processes.

■ evaluate the political dimensions of charitable practices and to be able to use the global history of charity to engage with contemporary debates on development.

■ analyse different types of primary and secondary sources and use them to construct a well-supported independent written and oral argument.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.