Research

In tune with the spirit of the age? annual reports for the London Council of Social Service, 1919-1935

The annual reports of voluntary organisations are recognised as confirmatory documentation of a year's activities, retrospective and justifying accounts of deserved successes and undeserved (often unattributable) failures, as well as publicity or fundraising devices. For historians of voluntary action they present challenges for developing understanding of the organisation's directions, operations and values in the context of wider socio-economic contemporary events. To what extent do annual reports confirm or challenge, reflect or lead accounts of acknowledged general social trends? How isolated from or close to such events are these unique records, and with what effects on the organisation's development?

This paper selects three periods from the annual reports of the London Council of Social Service, those for 1918-19, 1920-1922 and 1930-1935 to explore the extent to which their content may be said to be "in tune with the Spirit of the Age." Methodological literature on annual report analysis, including the development of thematic accounts and assessment of the integration of reports' "messages" is drawn on, including business literatures, where the public role of a firm's annual report is a central research concern.

The paper is available for download at the link below. It was presented at the Voluntary Action History Society Research Conference in July 2010.

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