The cooperative movement began in earnest in Britain in the 19th century in response to the industrial revolution and the economic transformations that were threatening the livelihoods of many workers.
There were earlier efforts by workers to form cooperatives, of course. The Shore Porters Society, for example, claims to be one of the world’s first cooperatives, being established in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1498. It was a removal, haulage and storage company, originating as a group of porters working in Aberdeen Harbor.
The Fenwick Weavers’ Society was a professional association created in the Scottish village of Fenwick, East Ayrshire in 1761. The original purpose of the society was to foster high standards in the weaving craft, but activities later expanded to include collective purchasing of bulk food items and books. In 1769 members formed a consumer cooperative and manhandled a sack of oatmeal into John Walker’s whitewashed front room and began selling the contents at a discount.
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