CALL FOR PAPERS – Towards a global history of the consumer co-operative movement

Please see the call for papers below. We would be very pleased to hear
from researchers working on the history of consumer co-operation in any
part of Latin America, in any period. For more information please contact
Mary Hilson (m.hilson).

Call for papers – Introduction and aims of the project
The aim of the project is to produce a comparative survey of the history
of the consumer co-operative movement, from the nineteenth century
onwards, in all regions of the world. This will take the form of an
anthology, to be written in English and edited by the project leaders,
which will include chapter-length surveys of co-operative history in as
many regions and countries as possible, together with thematic analyses of
the transnational connections, processes and entanglements which have
shaped co-operative history throughout the world. Combined with
statistical information and bibliographies, the anthology is intended
above all to create a resource for future studies on the co-operative

The work will be produced to the highest scholarly standards by
professional historians, but we will also use other forms to disseminate
the results of the project to a wider audience, including co-operative
activists. The project builds upon important earlier studies in this
field, including for example the work of Johnstone Birchall, and the
anthologies edited by Brazda and Schediwy (1989) and Furlough and
Strikwerda (1999) but it is nonetheless still the case that consumer
co-operation has been surprisingly neglected by economic and social

The project is concerned primarily with consumer co-operatives, many of
which though by no means all state their adherence to the principles of
the so-called Rochdale model (based on the eponymous co-operative society
founded in northern England in 1844). Many consumer co-operatives are
concerned with retailing, but it will also be necessary to consider
consumer co-operation in other fields, e.g. energy, healthcare, social
services including care for the elderly etc. Other forms of co-operative
organisation will be considered where necessary in relation to consumer
co-operation, including for example producer co-operation (especially
where co-operative production was run as part of co-operative wholesale
federations serving consumer societies), agricultural co-operation and
credit co-operation.

By presenting a global perspective on a truly global movement, the project
also attempts to move beyond the Euro-centric perspectives that continue
to dominate much trans-national historical research, and thus contribute
to the growing interest in globalised history. The aim of the project is
to understand consumer co-operatives as a global phenomenon, and it thus
requires a careful consideration of methodology. We seek to understand
why consumer co-operation existed all over the world, but at the same time
it is important to avoid over-emphasising entanglements, and adopting a
euro-centrist or neo-colonialist view. It is thus important to pay
attention not just to Rochdale but also to different models of
co-operation and their diffusion. Further, although the framework for the
nation state was often the main context for the historical development of
co-operatives, similarities and differences will have to be treated very
carefully in order to avoid generalisations that hide local and regional

Scope of the project
The book will be divided into two sections. The first will include a
series of single-country or regional chapters, written by experts, and
organised around an agreed set of common questions and themes. The second
will consist of broader surveys exploring different themes in co-operative
history. The list of countries/themes is still subject to revision.

1) Introduction (the editors)
Section 1: country/regional surveys
2) Britain
3) The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and
4) Germany
5) Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland
6) Eastern Europe
7) France
8) Spain (including Mondragon), Italy
9) North America (Canada and United States)
10) Central America and the Caribbean
11) Spanish South America
12) Brazil
13) West Asia (including Israel)
14) Russia and the CIS
15) China (including Hong Kong)
16) Japan, Korea and Taiwan
17) South-east Asia (including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia)
18) French and British West Africa
19) Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe
etc.) 20)
East Africa
21) India (including Bangladesh, Miramar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)
22) Australia and New Zealand
23) International organisations (ICA; co-operative sections within

Section 2: thematic chapters
24) Co-operation and the labour movement (labour attitudes to coops;
co-operative attitudes to labour)
25) Co-operation and gender; also ethnicity, locality and religion
26) Consumer co-operatives under communism and fascism
27) Empires and colonialism
28) Co-operatives, law and the state: regulation, public policy
29) Co-operation, consumerism and other consumer movements; food
and the environmental movement
30) Co-operative international trade and the fair trade movement
31) Co-operative management and industrial relations; co-operative
business models; co-operative governance and member participation
32) Co-operative advertising, material culture, iconography and
33) Co-operatives and the retail sector
34) Service consumer co-operatives: healthcare, energy, social
35) Transnational networks; diffusion of different models

Questions/framework for analysis
The country or regional surveys will need to address a common set of
questions, as follows:
1) How, where and when did the co-operative movement emerge, and
what were
the main influences on its development? What was the relationship between
indigenous co-operative organisations and co-operative ideas introduced
from overseas? How were co-operative ideas transmitted, e.g. by
immigrants, colonial and domestic authorities, trading contacts,
transmission and translation of key texts? What was the influence/status
of different models of co-operation?

2) What forms did co-operation take in different national and
contexts? What was the relationship between consumer co-operation and
other types of co-operation (producer, agricultural, credit)? What was
the relationship between consumer co-operation and other consumer
movements? How may we try to explain the relative success or not of
consumer co-operation in different countries?

3) What was the legal, constitutional and political framework for the
development of co-operation? Were co-operatives treated as
friendly/mutual societies or as businesses? What was the role of the
state, either in actively promoting the development of co-operatives or in
hindering them? How did legislation affecting co-operatives shape their
development (e.g. legislation forbidding trade with non-members)? Was
there organised opposition to co-operation (e.g. from private retailers)
and how significant was this? Were co-operatives able to influence public

4) How did co-operation develop on different scales and in different
places? Was co-operation associated with particular communities or
places? How did the movement develop historically in national and/or
regional contexts? When were the first societies founded? What was the
significance of federations at national or federal state level? How was
the movement structured and organised?

5) How can we understand the historical development of the movement
relation to general economic, social and political trends, and processes
such as e.g. industrialisation, urbanisation, globalisation,
rising/falling living standards, changing patterns and cultures of
consumption? How important is path dependency for understanding
co-operative history in a national context?

6) How were co-operative societies managed, and how did this change
time? Were there any particular periods of expansion and innovation or of
decline, and how can these be explained? How did consumer co-operatives
manage industrial relations with their own employees? What was
distinctive about co-operative governance and the arrangements for member

7) Did the co-operative movement appeal to any particular social
To what extent were consumer co-operatives associated with or divided by
social categories such as class, occupation, gender, ethnicity, language,
religion? To what extent did the co-operative movement provide other
activities, e.g. education, cultural activities, social clubs, press,
housing, insurance schemes and other mutual benefits? Were there separate
women’s organisations and what role did they play?

8) To what extent did the co-operative movement develop its own
distinctive material culture and iconography? What can be said about its
public buildings, brands, advertising etc.? How did the co-operative
movement seek to promote its products to its members and how do its
activities fit in with wider patterns of consumption? To what extent have
consumer co-operatives sought to engage with debates about ‘wise’
consumption, for example healthy eating, organic food production, fair
trade and ethical consumerism?

9) What was the relationship between the co-operative movement and
social and political organisations, especially the labour movement? What
was the labour movement’s attitude to the co-operative movement? Were any
co-operative societies affiliated formally with political parties, social
democratic or otherwise?

10) To what extent was co-operation an international movement?
What was
the relationship between the national co-operative organisations and the
ICA, and/or other international organisations? What contacts (trading or
otherwise) did the co-operative movement have with co-operatives in other
countries? To what extent were international relationships between
co-operatives shaped by inequality, power, and colonial or post-colonial
relations? What has been the role of technical assistance and aid between
co-operative agencies?

11) What can be said about the historiography of co-operation in a
national context? What have been the roles of academics and/or
co-operators in writing co-operative history, and how have they tried to
explain periods of expansion and decline? What has been the main focus of
co-operative researchers? In what ways has the movement commemorated its
own history?

Contributors will also be asked to include some bibliographic and
statistical information in relation to their own countries, where this is

Practical organisation
This is a very ambitious project, which will rely for its success on
meticulous planning by the project organisers, and the co-operation of all
participants in following instructions, framework and deadlines very

The project organisers are Mary Hilson (University College London, UK;
m.hilson) and Silke Neunsinger (Labour Movement Archives and
Library, Sweden; silke.neunsinger). Any queries about any
aspect of the project should be directed to them in the first instance.
There is also a small steering group of international experts who will be
advising the project organisers.

We are now seeking initial responses to the call for papers, from scholars
working in the field who wish to propose contributing one of the regional
or thematic chapters. At this stage, we would like to invite short
outline proposals (max 3-4 pages). Please note that for the
national/regional surveys, we suggest that these proposals should take the
form of short responses to the 11 questions listed in this call for
papers, rather than a conventional abstract. On the basis of the
proposals we receive, we will select the full papers to be presented at
the project conference, to be held in 2011 (date and place to be

Please contact us as soon as possible with informal expressions of
interest. Proposals should be sent to Mary Hilson (m.hilson),
no later than 1 September 2010. Please also include a brief CV and
details of any relevant publications. Jointly-authored proposals are of
course welcome.

Please note the following:
1) The project organisers have only very limited funds at their
No fees can be paid to contributors. In general, scholars will be asked
to seek their own funding for travel to the conference. The project
organisers will do their best to assist scholars from poorer countries
with finding suitable funds towards their travel and subsistence to enable
them to attend the conference, but no guarantees can be made.
2) Proposals should be written in English where possible; proposals
French and German are also acceptable. The language of the project
conference will be English. As far as contributions to the final volume
are concerned, it may be possible to submit papers in other languages for
translation. Please make it clear in your proposal if this is likely to
be necessary.