What is a Luddite?

Michael Anissimov

Luddites were members of a social movement of textile workers in England during the early 1800s. The movement began in the town of Nottingham in 1811. It was formed during the peak of the Industrial Revolution, which the workers felt threatened their jobs through automation. Their concern led them to destroy multiple textile machines and stage widespread protests. The British government reacted harshly, making industrial sabotage a capital crime and sentencing or exiling prominent figures in the movement, which at one point became quite large, with thousands of adherents. The Luddite movement was relatively short-lived, lasting between 1811 and 1813.

Luddites were members of a social movement of textile workers in England during the early 1800s.
Luddites were members of a social movement of textile workers in England during the early 1800s.

The Luddite movement resulted in the destruction of many wool and cotton mills, quickly attracting the attention of the authorities, who dispatched many British soldiers to counteract the Luddites. Actual clashes occurred at Middleton and at Westhoughton Mill, both in Lancashire county. The Luddite's mythical leader was Ned Ludd, or "General Ludd," allegedly one of the first Luddites, though his actual existence is disputed.

Luddites felt threatened during Industrial Revolution automation.
Luddites felt threatened during Industrial Revolution automation.

The Luddite movement was popular among the working class and despised by the magistrates, food workers and industrial leaders. The culmination of the Luddite fiasco resulted in the execution of 17 men in the town of York in 1813. Many Luddites were also deported to the prison colony of Australia.

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Many luddites were deported to Australia, which at the time was a prison colony.
Many luddites were deported to Australia, which at the time was a prison colony.

The Luddite movement was based on the opposition to new technologies and the cultural changes associated with them. When a new technology is introduced, it initially displaces some workers, but creates new jobs that are actually more productive. Nowadays the existence of this phenomenon is common and more generally accepted -- though not completely; no one wants to lose their job. In the early 1800s in England, however, people were not familiar with this phenomenon and it shocked them. Nowadays, the term "Neo-Luddism" is often used to refer to those opposed to technological progress for cultural or moral reasons.

The invention of the mechanical loom was one of the driving forces behind the Luddite movement.
The invention of the mechanical loom was one of the driving forces behind the Luddite movement.
A modern luddite may have a dislike for computer technology.
A modern luddite may have a dislike for computer technology.

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Discussion Comments

anon147405

So you say that, "About 20 percent of Americans have some sort of mental illness." Doesn't this mean that a fifth of your work will be useless and crazy? Why bother?

anon63785

So I'm hearing the word 'luddite' applied to anti web 2.0 web designers and programmers. Is it a good or a bad thing to be a 'luddite'?

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