JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer
Reiling, Assistant Editor.
One hundred and twenty years ago Dr. Percival, of Manchester, England,
was asked by the justices of the peace of that city, to inquire into the causes
of a serious epidemic among the factory employes. After personal investigation
of the conditions, Dr. Percival reported in favor of placing the mills under
legislative control, especially as regarded hours of work, which, in his opinion,
were so long as to be a contributory cause of disease through confinement
and exhaustion. In consequence of his representations the magistrates passed
a resolution that they would not allow parish apprentices to be bound to owners
of mills in which children were obliged to work in the night or more than
ten hours in the day. This resolution is said to be the earliest recorded
attempt of any public body to limit the hours of children’s labor. The
earliest child labor legislation, therefore, owed its origin to the spirit
of scientific inquiry into questions of public health, and it seems proper
that this same spirit should still take the initiative whenever public health
is menaced through lack of proper legislation.
PROGRESS IN CHILD LABOR LAWS. JAMA. 2004;292(22):2791. doi:10.1001/jama.292.22.2791
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