Almanac: The Luddites


And now a page from our “Sunday Morning” Almanac: March 11th, 1811, 207 years ago today — the day a workers’ movement famously said “No” to technology.

For that was the first day of the Luddite protests in England.

Named for a mythical figure named “Ned Ludd,” the Luddites were textile workers who feared automated loom machinery would put them out of work, and destroy their way of life.

They fought back by breaking into textile mills and breaking up the hated machines.

Kentish agricultural workers attacking a farm at night, c1830. Ricks were burned and machinery, particularly threshing machines, wee smashed because the labourers thought they were threatening their jobs and depressing their wages. Engraving c1890.

An 1890s engraving of an early 19th century attack by agricultural workers upon a Kent farm, at which threshing machines were destroyed, because the laborers thought they were threatening their jobs. 

Universal History Archive/UIG

And though the original Luddites are long gone, the word “Luddite” survived.

It’s become a catch-all term for everyone, from modern day factory workers concerned about automation, to low-tech traditionalists who reject the prevailing notion that absolutely everyone has to carry a smartphone.

Ned Ludd may have been a legend, but more than two centuries later, the Luddites he inspired — like them or not — still carry on.

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