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LudditeToday marks the anniversary of the first Luddite riot. Chambers Book of Days calls it “a black-letter day in the annals of Nottinghamshire.”

Luddites were stocking knitters and wool croppers in Nottingham, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, who were trying to save their livelihoods by smashing the machines that replaced them. They were against being replaced by low-skilled workers. They wanted their fair pay. They also wanted an end to inferior products created by machine which undermined the reputation of their craft.

On March 11, 1811, the first Luddites destroyed sixty-three knitting frames, sparking a series of such incidents that spanned over about 6 years.

FrameBreaking-1812No one knows for certain where the name Luddites came from. It is said to have originated from an apprentice weaver named Ludd who smashed his loom in anger at the master who beat him. Or, less dramatically, The Book of Days says a youth named Ludlam who when his framework-knitter father told him to “square his needles” took his hammer and smashed them.

However the name originated, the leaders of the rioting against the industrialization of their craft came to be called General Ludd or King Ludd, and the character became as legendary as  Robin Hood.

The government refused to step in to aid the Luddites (in spite of Lord Byron speaking in their behalf in Parliament). They focussed on enforcement, but, because the Luddites disguised themselves and because their communities were so tightly unified with them, most were never caught and punished. Basically the rioters and protesters, the machine smashers, were all desperate enough to risk hanging or transportation.

Eventually enough machines were destroyed and enough manufacturers were willing to cede to the Luddites wishes that the movement lost some steam. Even though some Luddite leaders joined other movements for social change. By 1817 frame smashing ceased to become an issue.

Today we still use the term Luddite to refer to any opponent of industrial change or innovation.

I can’t say I’m an opponent of industrial innovation, but I sure can’t figure out how to use all the features on my Smart TV!

In what way are you a Luddite? Or, if not you, do you know a Luddite?

(by the way, I’ll pick Sally MacKenzie’s winner after 12 midnight tonight)

Posted in Research | Tagged | 9 Replies

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Today the USA celebrates Labor Day, a national holiday that celebrates the American worker.

In the late 1800s several states celebrated Labor Day, but it was only after a number of workers were killed by U.S. military and U.S. marshals during a Pullman Strike, that congress made Labor Day a national holiday.

Worker unrest was not unusual during the Regency, of course. I’ll bet you’ve come across mention of the Luddites more than once when reading Regency-set historicals.

The Luddites were also protesting workers. They were English textile craftsman who protested by destroying the mechanized looms that were operated in factories by unskilled workers. Their name came from a young apprentice loom worker named Ludd or Ludham, who, when chastised by his superior, smashed his stocking frame with a hammer. Twenty-two years later, in 1811, Ned Ludd or Captain Ludd, or King Ludd, appeared in Nottingham, the leader of a protest. Soon he was reported to be on the move from one industrial center to the next, inspiring protesters, drilling secret armies at night, his face ghostly white, carrying a pike in his hand.

Problem was, Ned Ludd was a fiction. He was not a real person at all but a symbol. The officials believed in him; a militiaman reported actually seeing him.

Besides having a fictional leader, the Luddites poked fun by producing officious-sounding dispatches. They invoked the name of Robin Hood in their quest for social justice. They also marched as “General Ludd’s wives”wearing women’s clothing.

The Luddites, though, were serious about their protests. Unlike how their name is used today, their complaints were not that the mill owners were replacing hand looms with more more advanced technology. The Luddites wanted those advanced machines to be run by skilled workers earning a fair wage, not unskilled, low-paid workers producing shoddy goods.

With some exceptions–the killing of a mill owner, for one–the Luddites confined their protests to damaging looms. Far more violence was inflicted upon the Luddites than they caused. Several were hanged, however, and more were transported to Australia. The last protest was in 1816.

Today when you are watching your parade or eating your hot dog, remember the Luddites and drink a toast to Ned Ludd!

What’s your favorite Labor Day activity?

Posted in Regency, Research | Tagged | 5 Replies

I’m up to 361 catalogued books so far, with about 8 shelves to go. This is not counting my fiction books, though.

So far I’ve found five books with duplicates:

The Country House and How It Worked
Con Men and Cutpurses: Scenes from the Hogarthian Underworld
Regency London
by Stella Margetson
All You Needed to Know About What Materials Were Used When, With What Colors and Gems, Through the Ages (by Marisa Jones for the San Diego RWA Chapter)
Waterloo by David Howarth (a Pitkin book)

I’ll donate these to the Beau Monde Conference’s Silent Auction and hope that my Book Collector software keeps me from buying duplicates as often as I do!

I also discovered lots of books I forgot I had! (I’m a sad case, I know…) Some of them are very old and some…I just forgot.

Memorials Of St. James ‘s Street Together With The Annals Of Almack’s (1922)
A quote:

St. James’s Street, which sheltered Waller and Pope and Byron; where Maclean, the highwayman, lodged cheek by jowl with the “quality” whom he robbed; where Wolfe once stayed and wrote to Pitt asking for employment in 1758; and where Gillray threw himself out of a window; where the clubs and coffee houses took in and gave forth half the intellect and aristocracy of the land; where Dr Johnson, requiring a pair of shoe-buckles, came to the shop of Wirgman, here, to get them, as faithfully recorded by Boswell—St James’s Street is, notwithstanding its famous habitués and its notable events, as much associated with the name of Betty, the fruit woman, as with that of any other person during the eighteenth century.

Byng’s Tours
“Every summer for ten years, the Hon John Byng set off on a tour of England or Wales. He sampled the landscape and history of the countryside, visited houses and sketched ruins. This book contains his journals.”

Edinburgh In The Nineteenth Century Or Modern Athens Displayed In A Series Of Views
(follow the link to the google books version)

Rebels Against The Future: The Luddites And Their War On The Industrial Revolution : Lessons For The Computer Age

This book tells of the Luddite rebellion against technology and relates it to the present day.

This cataloguing job is turning into an adventure!

Do you ever come across books you forgot you had? Do you ever buy a book you already own?

Check my website for lots of new announcements and a new contest!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 20 Replies
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