Luddite

ned ludd

The Luddites [luhd-ahyts] were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution. It took its name from Ned Ludd, a proletariat folk hero, who was credited with being the first to fight back against mechanization. The principal objection of the Luddites was to the introduction of automated looms that could be operated by cheap, relatively unskilled labour, resulting in the loss of jobs for many skilled textile workers. The movement began in 1811 when mills and pieces of factory machinery were burned by handloom weavers, and for a short time was so strong that Luddites clashed in battles with the British Army. Measures taken by the British government to suppress the movement included a mass trial at York in 1812 that resulted in many executions and penal transportations.

The action of destroying new machines had a long tradition before the Luddites, especially within the textile industry. Many inventors of the 18th century were attacked by vested interests who were threatened by new and more efficient ways of making yarn and cloth. Samuel Crompton, for example, had to hide his new spinning mule in the roof of his house at Hall i’ th’ Wood in 1779 to prevent it being destroyed by the mob. In modern usage, ‘Luddite’ is a term describing those opposed to industrialization, automation, computerization or new technologies in general.

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