Two fifteenth century textile weavers working on a loom, there is a large spider in a web above them, circa 1450. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
15th century woollen cloth makers were paid in coin of the realm © Getty

It was not in 1887 that employers were for the first time required to pay employees in coin of the realm, as Izabella Kaminska suggests (“Cryptocurrency salaries risk a return to bonded labour”, August 21). A statute of 1464 forbade woollen cloth makers from being paid in “pins, girdles and other unprofitable wares”.

Similar prohibitions were subsequently extended to other trades. The Truck Act of 1831 consolidated the legislation, but left gaps. Navvies building the railroads during the railway-building mania of the 1840s were not covered and suffered dreadful financial abuse. Moreover, enforcement was poor, so many masters still forced employees to accept payment in kind, or in tokens accepted only at the employer’s “tommy-shop”. The main change in 1887 was to extend the legislation to all trades and to give the Factories Inspectorate enforcement powers.

Adrian Jack
Barrister and Attorney,
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands

Get alerts on Letter when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)