Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a socialist, educationist and co-operator and is often referred to as the father of co-operation. Owen originally trained as a draper and then went on to manage and co-own a number of factories in Manchester. In 1799 Owen assumed management of New Lanark Mills where he implemented a number of workers reforms. He believed that people’s behaviours would improve with their environment so made changes to the local village in order to promote sobriety and correct conduct. Within the village he created a company store, the profits from which would finance the local schools. Systems of education and recreation were established and gardens and allotments were also laid out. Owen’s mills were extremely profitable and New Lanark was seen as a model factory. Owen travelled up and down the country giving talks on his theories of social change. This cap would have been worn whilst he was speaking in public, something he became very well known for. Robert Owen’s ideas were rather big and complex; individuals like William King and George Jacob Holyoake would in time attempt to make his teachings more accessible to the working classes.
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