There's debate over whether or not a minimum wage is a good thing, but what's even more intriguing is that the formal minimum wage was predated by a maximum wage. In England in 1349, King Edward III declared a maximum wage for laborers. The Black Death had severely reduced the number of workers on the market and Edward III put this cap on wages to make sure the high cost of labor didn't ruin the economy. Whether or not this was an economically wise decision, it's clear that the King knew which side his bread was buttered on.
A formal minimum wage was instituted in England later on, in 1604. As the centuries passed and capitalism became more popular, all these wage laws were repealed. It ended up being New Zealand and Australia in the 1890s that led the charge of minimum wages in the modern era. The US instituted a national minimum wage in 1938.