Series Two: Minute Books and Papers of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society, 1868-1994
Part 2: General Committee Minutes, July 1876 - January 1931
Woolwich features significantly in the history of the Co-operative movement, and the records of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS) are an important source for studying grass-roots socialsm in 19th and 20th century Britain.
The RACS was not just about trading - there was always a broader social dimension. They became an employer and job creator, establishing a bakery in 1876 and a milk delivery service from 1887. And from 1878 onwards the RACS allocated 2.5% of the trading profit for the education of members, by means of lectures, evening courses and the establishment of reading rooms and libraries above branch shops. They organised leisure activities, housing and pensions. In fact, they reached into all aspects of working class life, literally from the cradle to the grave.
Part 2 provides virtually unbroken coverage of the General Committee Minutes of the RACS from July 1876 through to January 1931 (with small gaps in 1881-1882 and 1902). These are the central archival source for study of the RACS and are essential for any understanding of the diverse activities of this organisation. They describe its membership and trading activities, its educational role, the development of housing schemes, and its political role. Apart from providing a valuable source documenting the early Labour movement, they are a rich source for the study of the Depression years.