Posted by Captain Everett on February 12, 1998 at 22:03:38:
In response to Luddites, written by Linden on February 11, 1998 at 18:19:30
] Does anyone know of any resources on Luddism?
It's been a long time since I looked into this topic, so I'm pretty much going off what I recall.
E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Pelican Books, 1963) is another good source. While he goes over much the same ground as Thomis, his interestin Luddism is how it fits into the large picture of the emergence of this new "class."
Both books look how Luddism fits into a history of machine breaking, and the "lower order's" use of tumult and riot to achive their aims. These were usually aimed at protecting what they saw as rights, esp. fair wages and prices. It was not a simple automatic reaction to the introduction of machinery. In general, the riots of the pre- and early-industrial period were quite different than what we have today. The machine-breakers, or "mob" were very focused on what the real target was. Usually the only damage done was to the property of the mill owner (or whoever), rather than the widespread destruction we are familiar with in a late 20C. riot.
Thompson, does argue that Luddism was a "quasi insurrectionary movement", and places it in the context of the beginning of a collectivist view. It was also a very disciplined one; attempts to infiltrate the movement were rarely successfull. It was not, however, a "revolutionary" movement as some might wish to argue. Even General Maitland (who had some 12,000 troops distributed through the troubled area) realized it was not the forerunner of a French-style Revolution; however, he emphasised the need to maintain order.
Of the two books, Thomis is the easier read; Thompson is a much wider view (and much thicker book) including many other elements of the life of the "lower orders" c.1780-1832.
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