Philanthropy is big news. In a world where philanthropists can build bigger profiles than presidents, an ever-increasing number have risen to greater fame giving away their money than merely making it. But using wealth to change the world is always controversial, and some have started to question the very notion of philanthropy.In reality, none of this is new: philanthropy has been shaping the way we live for centuries. From religious almsgiving, through the golden age of Victorian philanthropy to the birth of modern charities, many with means have sought to use their wealth to ease hardship, enrich lives and change policy. And this has often met with as much criticism as praise.In today's Britain, where the welfare state uses tax to meet our basic needs and the market offers most things at a price, does philanthropy still have a role, and if so, what is it? More importantly, how can we ensure that it is an effective force for good?This book aims to answer these questions. It tells the story of philanthropy through the ages, the relationship between philanthropists, the state and society, and throws light on the successes - and sometimes spectacular failures - of great philanthropists from the past. It shows what history can tell us about current criticisms of philanthropy, and considers difficult issues such as the link between tax and giving and the motivations of the wealthy. Above all, it shows how the lessons learned from generations of philanthropists - and the good, bad or plain ugly results of their well-meaning endeavours - suggest principles that should guide public policy on philanthropy to help us overcome some of the most complex and deeply entrenched challenges facing our society.