The co-operative movement has played a notable role in the retail, wholesale, productive, political, educational and cultural life of Britain. As a movement it has consciously represented consumer interests and has carried out work in the arena of consumer protection. However, its study has suffered relative neglect when compared to research into the Labour Party, trade unions and the wider politics of retail and consumption. This book reassesses the impact of the co-operative movement on various communities in Britain during the period 1914-1960, providing a comprehensive account of the grass roots influence of co-operatives during both war and peace. This is a national study with a local dimension. It considers how national directives and perspectives were locally applied, if indeed they were applicable within the context of individual societies. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the co-operative movement by examining various societies in England, Scotland and Wales. Particular attention is paid to the midlands, due to the movement's expansion here during the interwar period, with consideration also given to comparative developments in Europe. The author explores: the movement's relationship with other labour organizations; its cultural and social aspects (including the role sport played in co-operative societies); the politicization of the movement and local response to the formation of the Co-operative Party; the education of co-operators; what co-operative membership entailed and how co-operative ideology was expressed; the economic impact membership could have on families (including the provision of financial assistance and credit); and the co-operative movement's development alongside consumer activism. The book is a major national study of the growth of Co-operation during this crucial period of British social, economic and consumer history. Given the few modern scholarly works on Co-operation, it is a timely and much needed reassessment.
'Robertson's work is a substantive contribution that makes clear the enormous complexity of a movement composed of regional or local societies whose membership, productive and retail interests, ideological commitments, and local community roles varied enormously.' Journal of British Studies '… in exploring the creation and nature of a ’co-operative community’, Robertson raises many valuable questions and offers a wealth of interesting source material. Her impeccable attention to detail draws out the many tensions and complexities of the movement. Most clearly, she highlights ’the multi-layered nature of co-operative membership’ (p. 2). She makes a convincing case for the relevance of the co-op to any study of the history of the labour movement or the social history of Britain.' Cultural and Social History
Contents: Preface; The Co-operative Movement in Britain; Co-operative Retail Societies and the community; The ideology behind the shop front; The social-cultural milieu of the Co-operative Movement. 'We seek to provide food for the mind': the educational work of Co-operative Societies; Protecting the consumer; The Co-operative Movement and political action; Workers and consumers in partnership? The Co-operative Movement as an employer of labour; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.