It was unemployment, exploitation and victimisation which drove workers in the latter part of the nineteenth century to seek an alternative to the ruthlessly competitive form of industrial life they detested. More than a hundred workers’ co-operatives * were formed and virtually all foundered within a few years. A few co-operatives proved viable and survived into this century; even fewer continued in existence to the present day. The workers’ co-operatives of the 1870s, ’80s, and ’90s were themselves the heirs to a tradition and an ideology which had been in formation since the 1820s and 1830s. From these experiments there is much to be learned about the preconditions for success and the causes of failure.