History of membership associations, volunteering and the voluntary nonprofit sector

Bernard Harris, Andrew Morris, Richard Ascough, Grace Chikoto, Peter Elson, John McLoughlin, Martti Muukonen, Tereza Pospíšilová, Krishna Roka, David Horton Smith, Andri Soteri-Proctor, Anastasiya Tumanova, Andri Soteri-Proctor, Pengjie Yu

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This chapter examines the history of the topics in its title, emphasizing the history of associations. Membership associations have been the most common type of nonprofit organization (NPO) in human history and remain so still today in all countries. Voluntary/nonprofit agencies with paid staff serving nonmembers and the general public are very recent social inventions, as are Volunteer Service Programs (see Chapter 29) and the voluntary sector concept. The chapter is structured around major historical periods in which associations have existed, beginning about 10,000 years ago, when many human societies settled down in villages from being small, nomadic, hunter-gathering bands. Thus, we discuss associations in (1) preliterate horticultural societies, (2) ancient agrarian societies, (3) recent pre-industrial societies, and (4) industrial and post-industrial societies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations
EditorsDavid Horton Smith, Robert A. Stebbins, Jurgen Grotz
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2016


  • volunteering
  • nonprofit associations
  • civic participation

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