Sunday, July 10, 2016

The 10 Commandmants Of A Belgian Employee At The End Of The 19th Century

I've been reading this really interesting book, La vie quotidienne en Belgique sous le règne de Léopold II (1865-1909) by Georges-H. Dumont, for research purposes, when I fell on this little tidbit I thought you guys might enjoy.
Belgian miners circa 1900. They were considered
inferior because they worked with their hands
and in the bowels of the earth.
Particularly for those of you who want to spot the differences (where have we improved in over 100 years), and the similarities (I assure you, some things never seem to change).
So, here goes:


  1. Respect of God, cleanliness and punctuality are the rules of a well-ordered house.
  2. As of now, the personnel will have to be present from 6 am to 6 pm. Sunday is reserved for religious service. Every morning, everyone has to say prayers in the principal's office.
  3. Everyone has to do overtime if management deems it useful.
  4. The oldest employee is in charge of the premises' cleanliness. The youngest must show up at his place, 40 minutes before prayer time, and are also at his disposition at the end of the day.
  5. The clothing has to be simple. The staff cannot wear light colors, and must ware appropriate stockings. It is forbidden to wear rubber boots and fur coats inside the offices, due to the presence of furnaces and kilns. Exceptions in case of bad weather: scarves and hats. We also recommend everyone bring, during wintertime, four pounds of coal.
  6. It is forbidden to talk during office times. An employee who smokes cigars, takes alcoholic drinks, goes to billiards rooms or attends political meets will be considered suspect with respect to his honor, his honesty, and his propriety.
  7. It is permitted to take some sustenance between 11h30 and noon. However, work cannot be interrupted.
  8. Employees have to show modesty and respect before clients, management and representatives of the press.
  9. Each staff member has the duty to keep good care of his own health. In case of illness, a salary will not be paid. We recommend everyone to save a good part of his pay so that, in case of inability to work, and in his old age, he will not be dependent on the community's goodwill.
  10. And to finish this, we would like to draw your attention to the generosity of these new rules. We expect from it a considerable increase in work.

Lovely, isn't it? And one of the many reasons I do not wish to travel back in time... What are your thoughts?
The rules were translated from the Règlement de bureaux et chancelleries (private collection), or the rules the poorly-paid
office and chancellery employees had to follow. As you can see, as stringent as the rules a "lower" miner had to follow, so
no reason for them to feel superior. Yet superior they did feel.

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