George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906) was one of the co-operative movement’s best-known figures. In 1837, Holyoake gave his first speech on socialism and two years later he became a teacher on the subject. Holyoake was especially concerned with freedom of individual activity and expression; this was perhaps spurred on by the time he spent in jail for blasphemy in a lecture. Holyoake soon recovered from his imprisonment and went on to write many journals on the subject of co-operation. He is said to have been the movements most powerful advocate in print. In 1858 Holyoake wrote Self Help for the People, which told the story of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society and was largely responsible for its fame. This book appeared in at least seven foreign languages. Holyoake also travelled around the country lecturing on Robert Owen’s ideas. In these lectures he attempted to mold Owen’s teachings into a more accessible form and in doing so created a sort of step-by-step guide to establishing a co-operative society. The leather wallet and writing stand featured in our museum display also belonged to Holyoake. The writing stand was a gift from the Glasgow Eclectic Institute, showing just how popular a figure he was.
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