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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


BRADSHAW, James Benn Bradshaigh


Pioneer of labour legislation.

A new biography of Bradshaw, James Benn Bradshaigh appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

J. B. B. Bradshaw was born in 1831 at Barton Blount, Lancashire, the son of General Joseph Bradshaigh-Bradshaw, of the East India Company's military service, and of Frances, née Clowes. Educated at Haileybury for a Company career, Bradshaw quickly found that his health could not stand the Indian climate. He resigned and travelled extensively, both in Africa and South America, before obtaining a post as War Office Agent in Cape Colony. In 1852 he left Africa and made his way leisurely to the Victorian goldfields, where he arrived in 1855. There he studied geology, and became an expert on quartz mining. After considerable success as a “digger”, Bradshaw opened his own assaying business at Castlemaine. In 1863 he emigrated to Otago, where he urged the Superintendent, J. L. C. Richardson to open a Government Assaying Office in order to guarantee miners a fairer price for their gold. In 1863–64 he edited the Lake Wakatip Mail, and from 1866 to 1870 represented Goldfields Towns in Parliament. In April 1867, on Macandrew's re-election to the Otago Superintendency, the General Government delegated the Governor's powers over the goldfields to Bradshaw. This arrangement caused dissatisfaction locally, but he retained them until 1870. On the opening of the Thames goldfields, Bradshaw made a special survey on aspects of quartz mining. In 1871 he was returned to Parliament for Waikaia and, a few months later, was elected to the Otago Provincial Council for Mt. Benger, serving for a year on Macandrew's Provincial Executive. In Parliament, J. L. C. Richardson encouraged him to persevere with his plans for social reform. These culminated in the passing of “Bradshaw's Act” (1873), which restricted the employment of women in factories to an eight-hour day and, in 1875, he obtained an amendment limiting child labour to a four-hour day. Defeated for Parliament in 1876, Bradshaw continued his struggle for social reforms. He assisted materially in getting the Saturday half-holiday and, as a member of the Otago Wastelands Board from 1878, he opposed “Dummyism” and similar abuses. He returned to Parliament for Dunedin Central in 1884. and attempted unsuccessfully to carry through legislation regulating employment in shops and offices.

On 20 April 1870, at St. Paul's Auckland, Bradshaw married Harriette Clementina, daughter of Captain R. N. Bolton of the 84th Regiment, and by her he had two sons and three daughters. He died at Roslyn, Dunedin, on 1 September 1886.

Throughout a long career in New Zealand public life, Bradshaw waged a relentless war on social abuse wherever he found it, and he has deservedly won recognition as the pioneer of much of this country's labour legislation.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Trades Unionism in Otago, its Rise and Progress 1881–1912, Paul, J. T. (1912)
  • Evening Herald (Dunedin), 1 Sep 1886 (Obit)
  • Lake Wakatip Mail, 3 Sep 1886 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.