Luddism is something different

In my line of work the term ‘luddite’ is thrown about with abandon and for the merest reasons.

But in United We Stand. A History of Britain’s Trade Unions by Alastair J. Reid, I read that Ned Ludd was an invented character used to sign letters to employers during the intense industrial disputes between process workers and their employers in 1811-12. Reid writes (p62) of the associated acts of sabotage (for example 1000 stocking frames in Nottingham):

“…the violent opposition to technical innovation was confined to declining occupations in rural districts. After all, machinery rarely leads to net reductions in either skill or labour requirements. It usually replaces manual rather than mental labour in the processes concerned and it is generally introduced during expansions in production which simultaneously absorb any temporarily displaced workers. Thus though individuals might experience uncertainly and disruption, organized groups of workers rarely oppose the introduction of labour-saving machinery in principle though of course they are always concerned about the wages and hours involved in its operation. The exception to this rule seems to have been in rural areas, where isolation and lack of alternative employment opportunities weakened the workers’ collective bargaining and led on occasion to unusually desperate resistance to innovation.”


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