Farmers' cooperatives in Bavaria, 1880-1914: 'State-help' and 'self-help' in imperial Germany

I. Farr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the growth of peasant/farmer cooperatives in the German state of Bavaria in the years circa 1880-1914. The remarkable increase in the number of cooperative ventures in rural Germany, seen most clearly in the proliferation of credit cooperatives (Raiffeisenvereine), has attracted scant attention from historians. This study of the phenomenon in Bavaria suggests that the longer-term structural problems of peasant agriculture, compounded by seasonal crises and the absence of adequate structures of credit for small producers, all helped to make peasant farmers more receptive to cooperative innovation. In addition, however, state encouragement, galvanised in no small measure by the marked and, for the Bavarian state, discomfiting politicisation of agrarian interests in the early 1890s, was also instrumental in the extension of the cooperative idea. Certainly the more demagogic agrarian lobbies of the period, whether in Bavaria or in Germany as a whole, protested loudly that self-help measures such as cooperative credit, purchase and sales counted for relatively little, and that the only sure protection for farmers in the face of rapidly changing market conditions was large-scale state subvention, above all in the form of higher tariffs. However, the evidence presented here suggests that political demands to insulate the peasantry from change in fact formed part of a critical interplay between agrarian mobilisation, state intervention and cooperative initiatives whose effects, even if difficult to calculate exactly, undoubtedly contributed to the improvements in peasant farming in this period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-182
Number of pages20
JournalRural History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2007

Cite this