Pare, William (1805–73), advocate of co-operation, was born in Birmingham, the son of John Pare, cabinet-maker and upholsterer. In his youth he was apprenticed to his father before opening a tobacco shop in New Street, Birmingham. Interested in politics from his teenage years, he became converted to the co-operative socialism of Robert Owen after reading William Thompson's (qv) An inquiry into principles of the distribution of wealth most conducive to human happiness (1824). In 1828 Pare was one of the founders of the first Birmingham Co-operative Society, edited its newspaper (1829–30), attended the first co-operative congress in Manchester in 1830, and regularly lectured on the benefits of co-operation and labour exchanges. In 1830 he was elected to Birmingham's first town council and was a member of the council of the reformist Birmingham Political Union. He supported various causes including catholic emancipation, parliamentary reform, and the secret ballot, and was a vice-president of Owen's Association of all Classes of all Nations.
On several occasions he visited the Owenite co-operative project established by John Scott Vandeleur (qv) in Ralahine in Co. Clare in 1831, and became convinced that co-operative agriculture was the solution to the Irish land question. In his later writings on the Ralahine experiment he was highly critical of Vandeleur whose massive gambling losses led to its collapse in 1833. At the third co-operative congress held in London in April 1832, Pare criticised Owen's reliance on wealthy patrons rather than trusting ordinary workers to set up co-operative schemes. In 1833 Pare was named in William Thompson's will as one of the trustees of his estate. Thompson had stipulated that his estate was to be used to promote co-operative projects, which resulted in his family challenging the will in the Irish court of chancery. Pare returned to Ireland to see to the trustees’ interests, giving a series of lectures in Ireland on the co-operative movement. The case became a long-running legal saga and was not finally decided in favour of the Thompson family until twenty-five years later.
Pare served as Birmingham's first civil registrar (1837–42) but after the intervention of the bishop of Exeter was forced to resign because of his socialist convictions. Regarding himself as a ‘co-operative missionary’, Pare toured Britain, lecturing trades unions and mechanics’ institutes on the co-operative ideals of Owen and Thompson. He argued that although political reform and trades unionism were important, they had to be supplemented by co-operative efforts if real social justice were ever to be achieved. He was governor of the Owenite co-operative community at Queenwood in Hampshire (1842–4) before moving to London where he worked as a railway statistician (1844–6).
In 1846 Pare moved to Dublin where he became manager of an ironworks based in Clontarf (1846–65). He was Robert Owen's literary executor following his death in 1858. In 1869 he took the initiative in convening the National Co-operative Congress, and was elected the first general secretary of the Co-operative Central Board. He contributed many articles to The Co-operator in the 1860s arguing that activists should concentrate on co-operative production rather than shopkeeping. In 1871 he presided at the Owen centenary meeting, delivering an address on Owen's life. After suffering from ill-health for several years he died 18 June 1873 at his son's residence in Park Hill, Croydon, and was buried in Shirley cemetery, Croydon.
His publications include The claims of capital and labour (1854) and A plan for the suppression of the predatory classes (1862). He also edited William Thompson's Inquiry into principles of the distribution of wealth (1850). His most important publication from an Irish perspective is Co-Operative agriculture: a solution to the land question, as exemplified in the history of the Ralahine co-operative agriculture association (1870), a comprehensive history of the project and an argument in favour of co-operative agriculture in general. At the time of his death, he was engaged in writing a life of Robert Owen.
He was married to Ann Oakes (d. 1886) of Market Drayton, Shropshire; they had a son and two daughters.