The LUDDITES were a group of English textile workers and weavers in
the 19th century who destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest.
The group was protesting the use of machinery in a "fraudulent and
deceitful manner" to get around standard labour practices. Luddites
feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go
to waste as machines would replace their role in the industry. It is
a misconception that the Luddites protested against the machinery
itself in an attempt to halt progress of technology. However, the term
has come to mean one opposed to industrialisation , automation ,
computerisation or new technologies in general. The
* 1 Etymology * 2 Historical precedents * 3 Birth of the movement * 4 Government response * 5 In retrospect * 6 Modern usage * 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 References * 10 Further reading * 11 External links
Although the origin of the name
The lower classes of the 18th century, generally speaking, were not openly disloyal to the king or government. Overall, violent action was rare because punishments were harsh. The majority of individuals were primarily concerned with meeting their own daily needs. This movement towards aggression in the 19th century can be seen as part of the rise in English working-class discontent due to the Industrial Revolution. Working conditions in the mills were harsh but efficient enough to threaten the livelihoods of skilled artisans. The new inventions allowed for faster and cheaper labour because machines were operated by less-skilled, low-wage labourers. The Luddites were not afraid of technology and did not attempt to eliminate technology out of fear. Their goal was instead to gain a better bargaining position with their employers. Luddism was in fact a prototypical, insurrectionary labour movement involving a loose coalition of dissenters.
Research by Kevin Binfield and others asserts that since organized
action by stockingers had occurred at various times since 1675, the
movements of the early 19th century must be viewed in the context of
the hardships suffered by the working class during the Napoleonic Wars
, rather than as an absolute aversion to machinery. Irregular rises
in food prices provoked the
Malcolm L. Thomis argued in his 1970 history, The Luddites, that without the structure of a union, machine-breaking was one of the only mechanisms workers could use to increase pressure on employers, to undermine lower-paid competing workers and to create solidarity among workers, "These attacks on machines did not imply any necessary hostility to machinery as such; machinery was just a conveniently exposed target against which an attack could be made."
An agricultural variant of Luddism, centering on the breaking of
threshing machines, occurred during the widespread
BIRTH OF THE MOVEMENT
See also Barthélemy Thimonnier , whose sewing machines were destroyed by tailors who believed that their jobs were threatened
Textile workers destroyed industrial equipment during the late 18th century, prompting acts such as the Protection of Stocking Frames, etc. Act 1788 .
The Luddites met at night on the moors surrounding industrial towns
to practice drills and maneuvers. Their main areas of operation began
Nottinghamshire in November 1811, followed by the West Riding of
Yorkshire in early 1812 then
Lancashire by March 1813. They smashed
stocking frames and cropping frames among others. There does not seem
to have been any political motivation behind the
In 1817, an unemployed
Later interpretation of machine breaking (1812), showing two men superimposed on an 1844 engraving from the Penny magazine which shows a post 1820s Jacquard loom . Machine-breaking was criminalised by the Parliament of the United Kingdom as early as 1721, the penalty being penal transportation , but as a result of continued opposition to mechanisation the Frame Breaking Act 1812 made the death penalty available: see "criminal damage in English law ".
British Army clashed with the Luddites on several occasions. At
one time there were more British soldiers fighting the Luddites than
there were fighting Napoleon on the
Iberian Peninsula . Three
Luddites, led by George Mellor, ambushed and assassinated mill owner
William Horsfall of Ottiwells Mill in
Marsden, West Yorkshire at
Crosland Moor in
Huddersfield . Horsfall had remarked that he would
"Ride up to his saddle in
British government sought to suppress the
Parliament subsequently made "machine breaking" (i.e. industrial
sabotage ) a capital crime with the
Frame Breaking Act and the
Malicious Damage Act 1861 .
Several decades later, in 1867,
In the 19th century, occupations that arose from the growth of trade and shipping in ports, also in 'domestic' manufacturers, were notorious for precarious employment prospects. Underemployment was chronic during this period, and it was common practice to retain a larger workforce than was typically necessary for insurance against labour shortages in boom times.
Moreover, the organization of manufacture by merchant-capitalists in the textile industry was inherently unstable. While the financiers' capital was still largely invested in raw material, it was easy to increase commitment where trade was good and almost as easy to cut back when times were bad. Merchant-capitalists lacked the incentive of later factory owners, whose capital was invested in building and plants, to maintain a steady rate of production and return on fixed capital. The combination of seasonal variations in wage rates and violent short-term fluctuations springing from harvests and war, periodic outbreaks of violence are more easily understood.
In 1956, a speech in Parliament said that "organized workers were by
no means wedded to a
The term Luddite fallacy is used by economists in reference to the fear that technological unemployment inevitably generates structural unemployment and is consequently macro-economically injurious. If a technological innovation results in a reduction of necessary labour inputs in a given sector, then the industry-wide cost of production falls, which lowers the competitive price and increases the equilibrium supply point which, theoretically, will require an increase in aggregate labour inputs.
* ^ Historian
* ^ "What the Luddites Really Fought Against". Retrieved 8 December
* ^ "Who were the Luddites?". History.com. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
* ^ "Luddite" Compact Oxford English Dictionary at AskOxford.com.
Accessed February 22, 2010.
* ^ Anstey at Welcome to Leicester (visitoruk.com) According to
this source, "A half-witted Anstey lad, Ned Ludlam or Ned Ludd, gave
his name to the Luddites, who in the 1800s followed his earlier
example by expressing violence against machinery in protest against
the Industrial Revolution."
* ^ Palmer, Roy, 1998, The Sound of History: Songs and Social
Oxford University Press