Learning from history

As a momentary pause from all the tales of Co-operative Group troubles, let me make two comments. First, the cooperative movement is worldwide. We need to keep the global perspective to remember that elsewhere coops are demonstrating they are a robust and successful business model.

And secondly, there has been a cooperative movement in Britain for at least two hundred years and I am confident to predict that there will continue to be a British cooperative movement in the years ahead, whatever is happening at present at the Group.

I’ve been an active user of the National Co-operative Archive in Manchester for some months now, for research for a forthcoming history I’m writing on early productive coops, and yesterday the archivist Gillian Lonergan took time to take me downstairs and show me the archives stacks where all the material is carefully conserved. It’s a fascinating and valuable repository of the results of the cooperative impulse in Britain going back to the early nineteenth century, with some real treasures. I’m sure Gillian would like me to add that the archive is looked after by the Co-operative Heritage Trust (associated with the Co-operative College) and is there for all to use.

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