An interesting arrival in today’s post: an advance copy of Building Co-operation, a major new history of the Co-operative Group and its predecessor body the Co-operative Wholesale Society, written by three academic historians John F Wilson, Anthony Webster and Rachael Vorberg-Rugh. The book’s subtitle makes it clear that this is a “business history”, or in other words a survey of the development of the cooperative business model over the 150 years (and, yes, it is exactly 150 years) since the “North of England Co-operative Wholesale Industrial and Provident Society” was first set up by local coop societies as a collective way to supply their stores with the goods they needed.
As the authors themselves put it, “the British co-operative model remains a complicated one, with many overlapping structures”. At first glance, this book should help put today’s coop scene into its historical context and sort out any confusion. I’ll offer a proper review in due course.