Hidden HIstories: Luddites - a short history of one of the first labor movements presents:

Hidden HistoriesHidden HIstories: Luddites – a short history of one of the first labor movements

Call someone a luddite today and you’ll likely receive a sour look. The term has evolved into meaning someone who is against modern ways or technology. But the original luddites were far more calculating in their rejection of the industrialization that was destroying their way of life. They emerged in Nottingham, England, curiously the same district famous for another champion of the poor, Robin Hood. The Luddite movement was a reaction by mill workers of the Manchester – Leeds industrial region of England to the coming of steam powered machinery, replacing their skilled labor and leaving them jobless and hungry.

According to legend, the mythical figure Ned Ludd was a simple minded boy who accidentally broke a "frame" or loom. Others who broke frames deliberately might cover it up by claiming that they were as clumsy as Ludd. But Ned Ludd was also said to be a general on whose orders workers would demand that factory owners shut down steam powered machinery or the frames would be broken.

The Luddite movement was adamantly non-violent and reached its height in the spring of 1812 when it acted as an underground guerilla army in the region.

 February 27, 1812, Lord Byron speaks to the House of Lords on the Luddite riots and called for a peaceful resolution to their complaints. It was not to be.

In June 1812 , some 38 weavers were charged with "administering oaths to weavers pledging them to destroy steam looms" and they were accused of attending a seditious meeting. At their subsequent trial all thirty-eight were acquitted. ButLater that summer,eight men in Lancashire were sentenced to death and 13 more were transported to Australia for attacks on cotton mills. Fifteen more were executed at York. While there were occasional outbreaks of violence afterwards, by 1817 the Luddite movement had been thoroughly crushed and had ceased all activity in Britain.

Hidden Histories


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    May 23rd, 2010

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