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LABOUR HISTORY
Series Two: Minute Books and Papers of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society, 1868-1994

Part 3: General Committee Minutes, January 1931 - July 1970

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 3 provides unbroken coverage of the General Committee Minutes of the RACS from January 1931 through to July 1970.  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.  The records contain an interesting record of London during the Blitz and the importance of the Arsenal in war time.  There is much on the role of women and the records provide an important basis for the study of working class life and organisation, Christian socialism, shopping and welfare.



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