Infants' Contracts: Law and Policy in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Richard Austen-Baker, Kate Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Under English law, prior to 1970 young people up to the age of 21 lacked the capacity to make binding contracts, subject to certain exceptions. The report of the Latey Committee on the Age of Majority, which had recommended a reduction to age 18, was one-sided and, so far as capacity to make contracts was concerned, offered scant evidence as to the motivations of the existing law. The Committee heard evidence from the Church asserting, with no evidence, that such rules were intended to control young people and were there to protect the interests of others. This article argues, especially from analysis of the relevant case law during the 18th and 19th centuries - the principle period of development of English jurisprudence on minors' contracts - that the law's motivation had in reality been to protect infants from themselves and from adults who sought to prey on their naivety and impulsiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Contract Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Contract Law
  • Legal History
  • capacity
  • contract
  • infants
  • Law
  • Law reform


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