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The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanised looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life. It took its name from Ned Ludd.

The movement emerged in the harsh economic climate of the Napoleonic Wars and difficult working conditions in the new textile factories. The principal objection of the Luddites was to the introduction of new wide-framed automated looms that could be operated by cheap, relatively unskilled labour, resulting in the loss of jobs for many skilled textile workers. The movement began in 1811 and 1812, when mills and pieces of factory machinery were burned by handloom weavers, and for a short time was so strong that Luddites clashed in battles with the British Army. Measures taken by the British government to suppress the movement included a mass trial at York in 1812 that resulted in many executions and penal transportations.

The action of destroying new machines had a long tradition before the Luddites, especially within the textile industry. Many inventors of the 18th century were attacked by vested interests who were threatened by new and more efficient ways of making yarn and cloth. Samuel Crompton, for example, had to hide his new spinning mule in the roof of his house at Hall i' th' Wood in 1779 to prevent it being destroyed by the mob.

In modern usage, "Luddite" is a term describing those opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation or new technologies in general.[1]



The original Luddites claimed to be led by one "King Ludd" (also known as "General Ludd" or "Captain Ludd") whose signature appears on a "workers' manifesto" of the time. King Ludd was based on the earlier Ned Ludd, who some believed to have destroyed two large stocking frames in the village of Anstey, Leicestershire in 1779. At that time in England, machine breaking could lead to heavy penalties or even execution, which might have led some to use fictitious names for protection.

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