Building the Co-operative Commonwealth


Building the Co-operative Commonwealth

The UK Co-operative College, based in Manchester, is the educational arm of the British co-operative movement and home of the National Co-operative Archive. The College works with co-operatives throughout the world, promoting understanding of co-operative heritage, values and business structures.

A unique three-way partnership exists between UCLan historians, the Co-operative College and the People’s History Museum. Dr Nick Mansfield has provided curatorial advice to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and has contributed to the development of permanent displays and learning programmes on the co-operative movement at the People’s History Museum and the Rochdale Pioneers Museum. Building upon the foundations the team had developed three interlocking research projects in collaboration with the Co-operative College which explore the role of co-operatives in post-war colonial development and the history of co-operative politics and education.

In 2009 Stewart and Meredith successfully bid with the College for an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award studentship to explore the historic alliance between the Co-operative Party and the Labour Party. The successful applicant for the PhD studentship, Angela Whitecross has contributed towards the development of new permanent galleries on co-operative politics at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and devised learning resources for use by the Co-operative Heritage Trust. Stewart also co-organised international, multidisciplinary conferences with the College in 2009 and 2012, his research had provided a historical reference on expanding Co-operative Schools Network. Frank’s interest in colonial development has generated a dynamic international dimension to the partnership. Frank, Stewart, and Gaynor Wood of Futures have overseen undergraduate community history projects on the co-operative movement in Preston, which culminated in a student-led Co-operative Awareness Day in 2013, embedding co-operation in the teaching and research culture of the History team. UCLan students are currently engaged in oral testimony collection for the Co-operative College’s National Co-operative Oral History Project which aims to create an oral archive to be housed at the National Co-operative Archive.

By focusing on the international development strategies, research projects are providing insights into under-researched features of twentieth-century social, political, and business history. This ranges from tensions between co-operatives and the state to African co-operatives’ dependency on British banks, and the relationships between co-operation and the working class.