Prayer and Politics: Two Roads to Philanthropy in Victorian Britain

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Marc Baer, Hope College

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George Müller and the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, were men of different nationalities, class, and profession, but they were united in their Christian faith and in their efforts to change the lives of the poor in Victorian Britain. The Earl used his political influence to pass laws for the protection and just treatment of factory and mine workers, chimneysweeps, the insane, and countless other disadvantaged groups. George Müller ran an orphanage that at its height hosted 2,000 children. He never solicited donations or announced the needs of the orphanage, relying entirely on prayer to raise funds. Though originally from the poorest of the poor, Müller’s orphans were well-fed and well-educated, and many received professional training or apprenticeships upon leaving the orphanage.

In addition to helping thousands of people directly, Müller and Shaftesbury were also essential to changing notions of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, notions that are still affecting government and private charity today. The research focused on how these men led their age into a broader understanding of philanthropy and charity.


This research was supported by a Crossroads Project grant.

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