Papers of T W Mercer

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1499 TWM
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English German
  • Physical Description
      36 files, 10 volumes

Scope and Content

The collection consists of T W Mercer's files of notes and papers relating to his research into the early co-operative movement. These include papers relating to Robert Owen and the early co-operative movement, William King, John Ludlow, E V Neale, William Pare and Mercer's correspondence. The papers consist of newspaper cuttings, handwritten and typed correspondence, postcards, pamphlets, handwritten and typed notes, typed and handwritten drafts for biography, periodicals.

Administrative / Biographical History

Best- known today for his journalistic endeavours, Thomas William Mercer's association with the co-operative movement stretches much further back than his appointment to the position of editor of the Co-operative Review in 1922.

The son of an agricultural labourer, Mercer was born in Surrey in 1885 and began work at the local greengrocer's shop at the tender age of twelve. A few years later he moved to a Quaker firm in Croydon where he took advantage of the local public library's facilities and developed into a well-read young man.

Mercer's first co-operative position did not come until his early twenties when he joined the Reigate Industrial Society as a grocer. He later became branch manager in Reigate and then took up the same position in nearby Epsom.

During the First World War Mercer was recruited by the Plymouth Society and appointed to the post of Education Secretary. It is here that Mercer's involvement in party politics began and he became the political agent for a Labour candidate standing in the general election of 1918.

Mercer's interest in education continued and after his posting in Plymouth he moved north to join the staff of the recently established Co-operative College.

Mercer then went on to stand as a candidate himself in 1922 representing the Moss Side Division of Manchester.

In the same year Mercer was made editor of the Co-operative Review and continued to make writing the focus of his career until his retirement in 1945.

In 1927 Mercer became the Southern correspondent of the Co-operative News and also edited other co-operative publications such as the Millgate, the Co-operative Official and the Guildman at various junctures.

In addition to his writings for the aforementioned publications Mercer also produced a number of pamphlets and books using both his real name and the pseudonyms of Lawrence Graham and John Sheridan.

Mercer was an extremely prolific writer but perhaps his most admired and best- known book remains the Co-operative Commonwealth published in 1936. Another notable work by Mercer is Co-operations Prophet: The Life and Letters of Dr William King of Brighton.


A file structure list exists for the collection. It is unknown whether this list was designed by Mercer or the Co-operative College. TWM/1-8 is arranged in the original order according to the list and numbering system. TWM/9-11 consists of items that were not included in the list.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018.

Some files in this collection are subject to Data Protection legislation as they contain sensitive information and material under 30 years old is closed to access. It is advised that you contact the Archivist before visiting.

Other Finding Aids

A typed file structure list exists for the items TWM/1-8.

Archivist's Note

This collection was catalogued by Lucy Healy in March 2010 in her capacity as a National Co-operative Archives volunteer. Amended by Adam Shaw, Assistant Archivist, Sep 2010- Jan 2011.

Custodial History

The Co-operative Union, based in Manchester, was formed in 1870 as a central body that would provide support to co-operative societies and exchange best practice. The Co-operative College was formed in 1919 as the education arm of the co-operative movement. The College was based in Manchester up until 1945 when it moved to Stanford Hall in Loughborough. Both organisations, over time developed library and archive collections. In 2000 the College moved back to Manchester and the collections of the Co-operative College and Co-operative Union were merged to form the National Co-operative Archive. The papers of T W Mercer were part of the Co-operative College's collections. No accession records exist regarding the deposit of the collection with the Co-operative College.