The cooperative movement: a historical overview

The history of the cooperative movement examines the early days of cooperatives around the globe. The cooperative movement began when cooperative principles were applied to business organization, although cooperative arrangements like mutual insurance and principles of cooperation had existed for a long time prior to this.

Early stages of cooperative movement

In the nineteenth century, Europe—particularly Britain and France—was the birthplace of the cooperative movement. Many people's jobs became unstable as a result of the widespread adoption of mechanization during and after the industrial revolution. The climate of the time was characterized by the simultaneous labor and social movements and the problems they sought to solve.

In 1769, local weavers in Fenwick, East Ayrshire, manhandled a sack of oatmeal into John Walker's whitewashed front room and began selling the contents at a discount, forming the Fenwick Weavers' Society, the first consumer cooperative in recorded history.

The first established savings bank, which would be merged into the Trustee Savings Bank between 1970 and 1985, was founded in 1810 by Rev. Henry Duncan of the Ruthwell Presbyterian Church in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He did so so that the poorest members of his congregation could open savings accounts there and earn interest for times of illness and retirement.