Co-operative Societies in South Wales

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The material housed at the University of Wales, Swansea mainly consists of the records of co-operative societies located in the mining districts of the South Wales region of the Co-operative Union Limited and includes minute books, financial records and administrative records. In addition the archive also contains periodicals, bulletins and other printed material published by the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited and the Co-operative Union Limited and intended for the co-operative movement as a whole.

Administrative / Biographical History

The modern co-operative movement evolved from the activities of the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. The basic idea was that each co-operative would run a shop which sold local produce and that each member of the co-operative had shares in the shop. The manufacturing of goods to sell would also provide employment for the co-operative's members. Co-operatives were not just economic in nature; there was also a social dimension. They could help members improve their conditions and create a sense of community. Co-operative societies were owned and regulated by their members and customers.

The Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited united all the individual co-operatives in a federation for the wholesale buying and manufacturing of goods. The North of England Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited was created in 1864 and the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited in 1868. In 1872 the `North of England' was dropped from the title of the organisation and the Co-operative Wholesale Society represented the whole of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland with its base in Manchester. It merged with the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society in 1973. The co-operatives became involved in a wide range of activities from printing and publishing to agriculture and piano manufacture. By the 1950's there were approximately 10 million 'co-operators' in the United Kingdom.

The Co-operative Union Limited is a federation of co-operative societies including the Co-operative Wholesale Society and other co-operative bodies in the British Isles. It functions as a governing and advisory body, defining co-operative practice and spreading information throughout the co-operative world. It was established in 1869.

In 1934 the CWS Retail Co-operative Society Limited was set up with the purpose of establishing co-operatives in areas previously without them and for taking over societies which were experiencing difficulties due to adverse economic circumstances. In 1957 it was renamed Co-operative Retail Services Limited.

In 1883 the Womens Co-operative Guild was created. At first it was called the Women's League for the spread of Co-operation. The Women's Co-operative Guild was set up to spread information on the purpose of co-operatives and their value to the community and the nation as a whole; it also promoted women and improved their standing in society.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all researchers by appointment. Please note that somecollections contain sensitive information and access may be restricted.