Collective strength and mutual aid: Financial provisions for members of co-operative societies in Britain

Nicole Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Notably one of the principles most prominently associated with Rochdale Co-operation is the system of paying dividend, a rate of return based on purchases rather than capital holding. This article argues that the dividend, though important, was only one aspect of financial assistance co-operative retail societies offered their members. By focusing on the period of the 1920s–40s, it explores how collective strength and mutual aid provided by societies extended to financial support during periods of economic crisis and industrial action. Credit in times of need was especially important for members of societies affected by trade depression, industrial crisis and unemployment during the interwar years. The article also argues that membership could give access to much wider support than is typically associated with the retail aspect of co-operative societies. For example, societies assisted individual members, or the families of members, during periods of illness and death. The article highlights how, as trading organisations, the spirit of mutual help within co-operative retail societies incorporated an element of collective expenditure. In addition to providing support for hospitals located in the communities in which they traded, societies also offered financial aid to nationally recognised charities. In this way financial assistance and support provided through the co-operative business model was not solely focused on extending the purchasing power of individual consumers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-944
JournalBusiness History
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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