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 Social legislation

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Join date : 2012-01-09

PostSubject: Social legislation   Wed 01 Oct 2014, 21:59

Writing in This Day in History about the changes to liquor laws made me wonder when the western world, at least, began to put in legislation for social issues like drinking, drug-taking, safety concerns, etc.  At our recent quiz night one of the questions was "New Zealand was the first country to regulate nurses - when did they do this?" I doubt if anyone in the room had ever heard of this and people were a little uncertain about what 'regulating' nurses actually meant, but it was decided it presumably meant 'registration'.  It turned out to be 1910 and we put 1920 which didn't seem too bad a guess to me.  But naturally did not bring a tick.

There seem to have been rules for a long time about things that affected fighting or the aristocracy - the banning of football in early times, for example, rules about poaching and game-hunting.  But what about rules for keeping a public house etc? Were there always limits on their hours? The Greeks had rules/laws/ideas on the behaviour of medical people, but did these translate into law after, say, medieval European times?  Presumably the rules for Muslims on alcohol date to the 9th century, though I am not at all sure about that. And some food restrictions seem to go back a very long way, like pork and beef in certain countries, and limits on meat in Roman Catholic families. (And even in my school hostel we always had fish on Fridays though there would have been a minority of Catholics there, but I suppose you cater for the minorities when it has no great effect on the majority.)

Are the laws on drink and drugs mostly a 19th century or later concern?  I am under the impression than cannabis and other drugs were legal until the early 20th century.  We have become a very safety-conscious society in recent decades but even in the mid-20th century with strong unions there didn't seem a great focus on safety prevention. although inspectors in certain dangerous occupations were common.  As a child we did not have safety cabs on tractors, or seat-belts in cars, or protection on scaffolding, or endless rules about food preparation and selling.  What rules on food have been around for a long time, apart from ones to do with protectionism?
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Gilgamesh of Uruk

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Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: Social legislation   Wed 01 Oct 2014, 23:19

Certainly the strength / quality of beer, and the weight of the loaf of bread, were subject to regulation from at least C12th, and the requirement to eat fish on Fridays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, was passed into law in Elizabeth I time.
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Join date : 2012-01-16

PostSubject: Re: Social legislation   Thu 02 Oct 2014, 09:54

Some time during the reign of Edward 1st, 1272-1397 locals in a nearby town had to go to the archery butts every Sunday with longbow for practice. .....  still in effect during the 16th C at  least when a Bellman was employed to tend the turf there; why thus named, I have no idea. 

I suspect that many such orders were never rescinded. In the city where I lived abroad someone in the Raj military cantonment ordered that all tree trunks would be lime painted for the first two feet. Long after the British left until very recently - and possibly on going - there were men employed still doing this every year - and lime scattered in the gutters where horse dung might be swept. Though no longer horses on these congested roads, before a dignitary visits the gutters are powdered white - and will be until someone bothers to change the rule. But there, jobs have to be invented or found  after each election, so I doubt there will be change.

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PostSubject: Re: Social legislation   Thu 02 Oct 2014, 10:17

The medieval Sumptuary Laws defining which classes of people could wear which clothing.

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