The Co-operative Movement is, as this book will show, already a very big thing and a very solid thing ; but its importance is not so much in its past successes as in those elements in them which promise the possibility of new developments. Looked at from different angles it appears to the observer under different forms. Materially it may be said to consist of its members, some three and a half million human beings, men and women mainly of the wage-earning classes, united in the 1,400 co-operative societies, which have grown up during the last seventy years in the towns and villages of Britain. But from another point of view the movement stands for the common objects and ideals which have united these three million men and women as co-operators. These common objects and ideas have made the movement something more than a fortuitous concourse of human atoms; they have converted it into a peculiar system of industry, operating within and yet in many ways apart from the ordinary industrial system of the country.