This introduction analyses the important scholarship on the ‘mixed economy of welfare’ in order to emphasize the main innovative features of the book. It develops its main argument – that of the productiveness of public-private entanglements – and presents the eight chapters of the book. The two main historiographical lessons yielded by our approach thus come into sharper focus. First, the choice to devote equal analytical consideration to a wealth of public and private actors allows us to set aside for good historiographical state-centrism in the history of welfare. Instead of the classic comparisons between national welfare ‘systems’, the book studies the mechanisms that foster public-private interactions and their productiveness, everywhere in Europe and at all levels, thereby illuminating the roles of a plethora of actors such as associations, corporations, municipalities, religious orders, international organizations, and NGOs. Second, a close look at the way public-private interactions work at the micro-level sheds new light on those individuals whose professional and activist careers straddle the two realms. Looking at public-private interactions from below reveals that the ability of those middlemen and middlewomen to navigate between the public and the private played a crucial role in fostering the productiveness of public-private interactions.