Abstract: The Rise, Retreat and Renaissance of British Co-operation: The Development of the English Co-operative Wholesale Society and the Co-operative Group, 1863-2013

Anthony Webster, John Wilson, and Rachael Vorberg-Rugh


In the 1980s co-operative movements globally were in decline in the face of the agressive expansion of investor-led firms, even in historic centers of the movement such as Britain. Yet in the last twenty years the movement has undergone a renaissance, culminating in the declaration of 2012 as the UN year of co-operatives. This paper traces the shifting fortunes of the English Co-operative Wholesale Society since its formation in 1863,and its successor organization, the British Co-operative Group. It traces its shifting fortunes, and the reasons for these fluctuations, focusing particularly on its commercial revival since the 1990s.