Co-opting the cooperative movement? Development, decolonization, and the power of expertise at the Cooperative College, 1920s-1960s

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Cooperative departments and organizations were a ubiquitous but rarely-studied aspect of British colonial governance in the twentieth century. The Co-operative College in Britain provided specialized training in colonial cooperation to students from across the British Empire. The cooperative movement was a key part of the emergence of regimes of development in the decades between the 1920s and 1960s, reflecting its emphasis on modular solutions deployed by experts in an increasingly homogenizing ‘developing world’. However, the colonial and post-colonial students at the Co-operative College were also critical of colonialism and capitalism, participating in the anti-colonial internationalist effort to create a more just post-imperial world. As post-colonial governments retained cooperative structures, the former students of the Co-operative College used the movement as a counter-balance to the larger forces of nationalism and neo-colonialism.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Global History
Early online date18 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2021


  • Cooperative movement, development, decolonization, education, expertise, internationalism