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National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Despite late 18th-cent. humanitarianism and philanthropy, there was scant concern about neglect and abuse of children before 1870. Piecemeal legislation (work-practices, baby-farming) and local rather than national experiments in child welfare lagged behind growing concern for animals, but pioneer work in America observed by the Liverpool banker Thomas Agnew (1881) led to the formation of several provincial societies for the prevention of child cruelty 1883–5. Through the untiring efforts of a London congregational minister, Benjamin Waugh, the London society amalgamated with some provincial counterparts to form the NSPCC, which then co-ordinated efforts to promote legislation (1889). Initially contentious, since this ‘Children's Charter’ appeared to challenge parental rights, its enforcement via the society led to eloquent testimony to their work and strengthened amplified legislation. The NSPCC was incorporated in 1895, since when concern about criminal neglect has extended to general physical welfare, and national consciousness has been raised about children's civil rights.

A. S. Hargreaves

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