Luddites


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Luddites,

name given to bands of workingmen in the industrial centers of England who rioted between 1811 and 1816. The uprisings began in Nottinghamshire, where groups of textile workers, in the name of a mythical figure called Ned Ludd, or King Ludd, destroyed knitting machines, to which they attributed the prevailing unemployment and low wages. In 1812 workers in Lancashire, Cheshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire began to wreck cotton power looms and wool shearing machines. There was no political aim involved and no cohesion in the movement. Outbreaks of Luddism were very harshly suppressed by the government.

Luddites

 

the name established in history for the participants in the first spontaneous workers’ outbreaks (late 18th and early 19th centuries) against the introduction of machines and capitalist exploitation in Great Britain.

The word “Luddite” apparently comes from the name of the legendary apprentice Ned Ludd, who was supposed to have destroyed his knitting machine. The Luddite movement stemmed from the artisans and manufactory workers who were ruined in the course of the industrial revolution. It was a specific mode of struggle of the still-forming industrial proletariat against intolerable labor conditions, wretched wages, and unemployment, which were connected in the consciousness of the Luddites with the introduction of machines. Luddite actions began in Nottingham and Sheffield (in the late 1760’s). Between the 1770’s and early 1790’s, riots against machines spread to Lancashire, Wiltshire, and a number of other counties. There was a powerful upsurge in the movement from late 1811 to early 1813. Mass destruction of machines (and sometimes even of whole factories) took place in Arnold, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, and other cities. In 1812 capital punishment was instituted a second time (the first had been in 1769) for the destruction of machines. The last major outbreaks of the Luddite movement date to 1816-20.

REFERENCES

Engels, F. “Polozhenie rabochego klassa v Anglii.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2.
Vasiutinskii, V. Razrushiteli mashin v Anglii (Ocherki istorii ludditskogo dvizheniia). Moscow-Leningrad, 1929.
Cherniak, E. B. Massovoe dvizhenie v Anglii I lrlandii v kon. XVII-nach. XIX vv. Moscow, 1962.
Thompson, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class. London, 1963.

Luddites

arch-conservative workmen; smashed labor-saving machinery (1779). [Br. Hist.: Espy, 107]

Luddites

British workers riot to destroy labor-saving machines (1811–1816). [Br. Hist.: NCE, 1626]
See: Riot
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