Wiring regs history
1882, a 4 page document with 21 regulations. At this time bare exposed iron wire was the norm, and joints were made by a long carefully specified twist of the wires.
The initial impetus for these rules was the Phoenix insurance company, who were handling a lot of fire claims due to badly installed arc lights. The early rules were to reduce risk of fire, they did not address shock.
1934. Earthing required for the first time
1939. Revised to varying degrees in 1943, 45, 46 & 48.
Ring circuits introduced in 1947
1950. Supplement 1954
Trade body NECIEC formed around this time (1956). The regs document itself took a more formal tone with requirements worded in the form of mandatory and non mandatory "good practice" sections.
IIRC the 13th did away with a lot of outdated practices like dual pole fusing, non-EEBAD installs etc.
1966. Earthed lighting circuits required for the first time
Released in 1981, although concern in the installation industry that the scope of change may be too large, resulted in the implementation being delayed by the English and Scottish secretaries of state until January 1985
The Electric Lighting Act 1882 was finally repealed in 1989
Introduced in 1991, and coming into effect January 1993
1992 Saw the British Standards Institute (BSI) adopted the wiring regs making BS7671 a national standard for all electrical work in the UK.
Old material from the FAQ
By Andrew Gabriel 2/3/1998
Amendment 2 edition (1997) has a yellow cover (original 16th edition has a red cover; amendment 1 (1994) has a green cover). Also known as "Requirements for Electrical Installations" and "BS 7671:1992 Incorporating second amendment"
290pp., 297 x 210mm, Soft covers version, ISBN 0 85296 927 9, 1997 UKP 42 / US$ 84
Ring-bound version, ISBN 0 85296 842 6, 1994 UKP 55 / US$ 110
Updates are available to bring a first amendment version up to the second amendment:
For soft covers version, ISBN 0 85296 926 0, 1997 UKP 12 / US$ 24
For ring-bound version, ISBN 0 85296 938 4, 1997 UKP 12 / US$ 24
Any bookshop should be able to order these if they don't stock them, or you can order from the IEE's web page above.
2008. Amended 2011
A summary of the (quite far reaching) changes