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British Library of Political and Economic Science

Child Labour Committee


Reference code(s): GB 0097 CHILD LABOUR COMMITTEE

Held at: British Library of Political and Economic Science

Title: Child Labour Committee

Date(s): c1885-1914

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 13 boxes

Name of creator(s): Child Labour Committee


Administrative/Biographical history:

At a conference in Zurich in 1912, the International Association of Labour Legislation requested that the national sections of the organisation should draw up reports on the subject of child labour in their respective countries, for presentation to an international Commission specially appointed to discuss the problem. The British section of the IALL appointed a sub-committee to draw up a report on child labour in the United Kingdom, consisting of Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, Constance Smith, Mary Phillips, Sophy Sanger, and Frederick Keeling, who acted as Chairman of the sub-committee and drafted the report.
This collection contains the material from which the report was drafted. It was gathered by the committee members specially for the report, and consists of correspondence, memoranda, transcriptions of personal interviews, newspaper cuttings, and questionnaires circulated by the committee to local authorities responsible for the administration of the Employment of Children Act (1903). It also contains various official documents, including a collection of all bye-laws regarding street trading and/or child labour made by UK local authorities. The scope of the Report was limited to the examination of the regulation of child labour in relation to the Employment of Children Act (1903), in occupations which were not covered by the Factory and Mines Acts, and its aim was to suggest practical ways of dealing with the problem, rather than studying its effects. Consideration was also given to the definition of 'juvenile' labour, and to the administration of the law as it stood at the time, with particular reference to the inadequacies of the Education Act as a means of restricting the employment of children.
In the years immediately preceding the drafting of the Report, there had been several unsuccessful attempts by campaigners to amend the Employment of Children Act (1903), along the lines recommended by a Departmental Committee on street trading set up by the Government in 1909. Organised opposition from the Press helped to block the first private member's Bill to amend the Act, introduced into the House of Lords in 1911 by Lord Shaftesbury, and the following year, another Bill proposed by Beck and Denman was similarly unsuccessful. In 1913, the Government itself introduced a watered-down version of Beck and Denman's Bill, but again, the difficulty of securing its passage led to its abandonment. The report of the IALL's sub-committee on child labour was one of many investigations into the subject by local authorities, private societies and individuals, but it is distinguished by the amount of fresh information gathered by committee members, particularly the statistics on the condition of wage-earning children in occupations which had been hitherto ignored by other studies. The report was published in 1914, with the hope that it would be 'a means of bringing to the notice both of Parliament and of local authorities the urgent necessity of raising the standard of protection' of working children.


Scope and content/abstract:

This collection is divided into 3 sections:
1. Local Bye-laws, 1904 - 1913: copies of local bye-laws governing child labour made under the provisions of the Employment of Children Act (1903), which were sent to the Committee by local authorities, including several licences and some correspondence and ephemera.
2. Questionnaires, 1913: responses to the questionnaire entitled 'Employment of Children Inquiry', distributed to every local authority in Britain in 1913.
3. Miscellanea, c1885 - 1914: the bulk of the material collected by the committee for the report on child labour, including correspondence with local government officials, copies of local bye-laws, sample street trading licences and certificates, statistics on street trading, child labour and juvenile crime, and cuttings from local newspapers relating to the regulation of working children.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The original structure of the collection, including file titles, has been preserved. The files have been arranged alphabetically by provenance and chronologically within each file, with the exception of press cuttings, which appear at the end of each file.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Apply to Archivist

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

Printed handlist and online catalogue available.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Output from CAIRS using template 14 and checked by hand on February 1, 2002

Date(s) of descriptions: 1 Feb 2002; revised 26 Feb 2002

Child labour | Labour
Employment of Children Act 1903 | Legislation | Law
Employment of children Inquiry 1913 | Legislation | Law
Juvenile delinquency | Delinquency | Social problems
Labour law | Public law
Legal systems | Law | Law

Personal names
Bentinck | Lord | Henry Cavendish | 1863-1931 | politician
Keeling | Frederick Hillersdon | fl 1912-1914 | chairman of the Child Labour Committee
Phillips | Mary | fl 1912-1914 | public servant
Sanger | Sophy | fl 1912-1914 | public servant
Smith | Constance Isabella Stuart | fl 1912-1930 | public servant

Corporate names
Child Labour Committee
International Association For Labour Legislation | British Section