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Director of Studies in History to Feature in New Documentary

16 Jun 2021

Dr John F. Mueller, St Edmund’s College’s Director of Studies in History, will be appearing as the historic expert on a new three-part documentary on the past and present of the supermarket chain Tesco. The first episode will be aired on Channel 5 on Wednesday 16 June 2021 at 7pm. 

Inside Tesco 24/7 tells the story of the retailer’s rise, from post-World War 1 market stall to the supermarket giant of today, with unseen archive footage, insider interviews, including lots of historical details from John Mueller, and exclusive access to the people and teams currently working for Tesco.  The series follows two distinct narratives spanning over a century; it charts the history from Tesco’s humble beginnings through the story of Jack Cohen, a 20-year-old ex-soldier who used his post-WWI pay to set up a market stall in London. The documentary follows his rise through the decades as a pioneer of “pile it high, sell it cheap” that attracted a loyal customer base to Tesco and helped expanded its operation into multiple stores. ‘Jack Cohen’s experience on the market stall is one of the reasons Tesco became so successful because he simply knew consumers’, John Mueller says. ‘There’s no way of learning this out of a book – you have to do it by intuition.’  In the second parallel narrative, we meet people across all areas of the company, from the long serving cashier who has just celebrated 40 years working for the store to the UK CEO charged with running its 3,627 stores and 23 distribution centres employing 300,000 staff. The three-part documentary was produced by independent production company Studio Leo, part of the Argonon group, for Channel 5.

In founding his retailing empire Jack – later Sir Jack - was following in the footsteps of many successful Jews in business from central Europe. John’s research focuses on prosperous Jewish retailers in Germany 1881-1939. Adept at understanding the everyday needs of Germans, Jewish-owned department stores had become so much part of the landscape of people’s lives that the National Socialists had to face extreme opposition in ousting them after 1933. His book ‘The Kaiser, Hitler and the Jewish Department Store’ will be published with Bloomsbury in Spring 2022. In it he will demonstrate, alarmingly, that intense prejudice against a group need not exist universally or for a long time amongst a population for that group to become subject to violent hatred. Describing the book, John said: "It will show how a highly assimilated community, who had got used to ambient prejudice, can face rather sudden dangers they could not have anticipated. It is almost a cautionary tale."

Watch the first episode of Inside Tesco 24/7 on Channel 5 on Wednesday 16 June 2021 at 7pm or catch-up online on the Channel 5 website.

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