This paper uses historical and current data covering the period 1850 to 2001 to provide a history of child labour in Portugal. The Portuguese experience is set against the backdrop of the country's changing economic structure, changes in education and minimum working age policies and the changing norms espoused by its people. The paper highlights the rapid post-1986 decline in child labour which is interpreted in terms of the cascading effect of policies that operated synchronously. Our assessment of the Portuguese experience suggests that while legal measures such as minimum working age requirements and compulsory schooling laws do help reduce child labour, no single legislation or policy is likely to be effective unless the various pieces come together. The use of children in the labour market appears to be driven mainly by the needs of the economic structure of the country, which in turn may be reflected in the norms and values espoused by its political leaders and their willingness to pass and implement legal measures.