Luddites (The Industrial Revolution)

By betsy r. and rachel b.

Luddites, a group of English men who felt that machines were ultimatley threatening their lives, are gathered around a fire. Here they are burning the machines they feel are putting their jobs and way of life in danger.
There are many similarities between modern day Luddites and the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution. Modern day Luddites feel that the advance of technology will eventually lead to the world's downfall. This cartoon represents the views of the modern day Luddites.

History of the Luddites

Mobs roamed the Industrial towns of northern England, smashing looms and frames and burning factories. The Luddites, a band of nineteenth century English handicraftsmen, were rioting in protest to the textile machinery that had taken them out of business. In the early eighteen hundreds, in the well known counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, Luddites destroyed thousands of pieces of machinery until they finally met their own demise around 1817 and the government was able to control Luddites riots.

During the Industrial Revolution, the laws and customs, which had been installed to protect the working class of England, were ignored and eventually abandoned. For example, the Minimum Wage Bill of 1808 decreased minimum wage and the Combination Acts, banned trade unions, as well. These were just some of the many sparks which drove the Luddites to rebellion.

As new machinery was being introduced, the wages of skilled workers dropped and working conditions began to deteriorate. The lives of the Luddites and their families were in danger. Therefore they decided to turn to Ned Ludd who is often perceived as a fictional character. Many say that Ned Ludd was an apprentice who smashed his bosses shearing frame with a hammer, possibly only to protect himself. Nonetheless he became known as a "lunatic" and the leader of Luddism. There were several aspects that led to the downfall of the Luddites. In 1812, a law was passed by the House of Lords, called the Frame-Breaking Act. This act made the breaking of frames punishable by death. Many Luddites members were not ready to give up their lives, therefore they abandoned the group. Trade unions became legal and male workers were slowly gaining the right to vote. The movement of the Luddites were becoming more and more pointless.

The government eventually defeated the Luddites. As many as forty Luddites were killed in action, twenty-four were executed, thirty-four were transported to Australia and twenty-four were imprisoned. Although the rise of the Luddites was short lived, they impacted society a great deal and even today Luddism is still around.

Turning point in history

Many historians would deem the Luddite riots as unsuccessful, while many others would say that they had a huge impact on society. The Luddites changed the views of people during the Industrial Revolution. They brought the rights of the workers to the attention of England. A turning point in history is often thought of as a well-known and dramatic event that took place and completely changed the world. The riots of the Luddites are not very well-known. However, their actions led to many significant changes in the world.

Politically, the actions of the Luddites brought the idea of having a society based on industrialization into the eyes of the public and open to debate. People were forced to look more closely at the positive and negative effects of having an industrial society. The "machine question" continues tobe unanswered today. The riots became a turning point because the flaws of the Industrial Revolution were brought to the surface and the government could no longer ignore the opinions of the working class.

The Luddites stories circulated England, showing the strong resistance and bravery of the English men. People realized that if one is disciplinedand organized, he will be successful in his battles. The Luddites als brought about the ideas that technology is never neutral and some are even hurtful. For example, while the while the Spinning Jenny was beneficial to the textile industry, it also put several spinners out of business. The Luddite rebels uncovered the dark side to the Industrial Revolution!

The neo-Luddites

Who are the Neo-Luddites? The Luddites anti-technological view which began in the 1800s has continued to bring forth an uprising of tensions in todays society. There are no set rules or guidelines on what it takes to be a Neo-Luddite. However, the term is most often used to refer to those who are opposed to the advance of technology in our society, not necessarily with violence and sabotage.

Kirkpatrick Sales is a well-known leader of Neo-Luddism today. His most famous book is known as "The Luddites: Rebels Against the Future." He believes that the advance of technology will someday lead to the downfall of the world. A similar figure to Sales is a man who is known worldwide as the Unabomber. He went to the extreme by bombing several places in order to promote his anti-technological view. The Neo-Luddites today have one main difference from the original Luddites. The Luddites of the 1800s were fighting for their lives, whereas today they are just fighting for a return to simpler times.

 This is a picture of the Luddite Triangle. The Luddite Triangle represents were the actions of the Luddites took place during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800's in England.


Altick, Richard D. Victorian People and Ideas. New York:

W.W Norton & Company Inc.,1973.


Ethical Computers. "Computers, the Arms Trade and Deforestation Whats the Story?"1999.URL: (12 Jan 2000)

This web site helped provide a picture of a computer. Ethical Computers is a magazine that looks at computers as well as its components.It also gave a bibliography and where to get other information which assures that the information is accurate.


Fraser, Rebecca. The Bronte Charlotte Bronte and Her Family. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.


Futrelle, David. "When the Unabomber Speaks"1995. URL: (10 Jan 2000).


This web site was very helpful in offering information to the comparison between Luddites and Neo-Luddites. The Unabomber, is a very good example of a Neo-Luddite, therefore this article was helpful. The article also appeared in the September 22, 1995 issue of the Chicago Reader, a newspaper in Chicago.Furthermore, this web site helped better understand the similarities between Luddites and Neo-Luddites.

Johnson, Paul. The Birth of the Modern. New York: Harper Collins Publishers,1991.


Langley, Andrew. The Industrial Revolution. Belgium: Reed International

Books, 1994.


Lines, Clifford. Companion to the Industrial Revolution. New York: Facts on File, 1990.


"Luddites." The New Encyclopedia Britannica. 1994 ed. Chicago: Norton and Esposite Publishing Group, 1962.


"Luddites." The Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition. 1997 ed.

Connecticut: Grolier Incorporated, 1829.


Marcus, Steven. Engels, Manchester, and the Working Class. New York:

Random House, 1974.


McQuillan, Dan. "The New Luddites."

1999.URL: Dec.1999).


This web site was very helpful and provided the points of view of modern or Neo-Luddites. The information is from LASA, which provides a central source of help and information for those who work in the advice field. The web site also provides other sources provided where its information is from.This assures that it is not ones judgment. However, the information given is from a Neo-Luddites opinion which makes this web site helpful for the better understanding of Neo-Luddites.


Pynchon, Thomas. "Is it OK to be a Luddite?" NY Times 28 October 1984.


Sale, Kirkpatrick. Rebel Against the Future. Reading:Addison-Wesley

Publishing Company, 1995.


Simkin, John. "The Luddites." 1986.URL: /PRluddites.htm (29 Nov.1999).


This web site was very helpful and contained accurate information. The article is from the Spartacus Internet Encyclopedia. Spartacus Educational is a small educational book publishing company formed by a group of teachers in 1986. It is an approved supplier of educational materials for the US educational Departments GEM Project and for Britain's National Grid for Learning. A bibliography is also given, assuring that the given information is from good sources.


Smith, Goldwin. A History of England- third edition. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons, 1957.


Stearns, Peter N. and Hinshaw, John H. The Industrial Revolution California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1996.


Webb, Gary. "Unabomber Reminiscent of 19th Century Luddites." Knight-Ridder Newspapers 30 Apr. 1995: 30


Primary Sources:


Bland, Celia. The Mechanical Age The Industrial Revolution in England. New York: W.W Norton & Company Inc., 1973.


This song which was song by the Luddites during the riots from 1811-1813 is quoted as a primary source because it was spoken by the group, the Luddites, about their attacks. It contains meaning to their attacks and when they acted. This song is a primary source because it was from their time period and is their writing.


Corrick, James A. The Industrial Revolution. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1998.


This police officer was present in the 1911 riots in England and had to arrest and make consequences to those who continued to proceed in their action. A law was created which stated that all those who did any action to the machinery was to be hanged. This police officer is a primary source for the research on Luddites because of his presence.


Simkin, John. "The Luddites."1986.URL:http://www.spartacus. (29 Nov.1999).


Lord Byron, speech in the House of Lords (27th February, 1812).Lord Byron was a romanticist and poet living during the 19th century. He was a supporter of the Luddites and saw clear classification between the first Luddites and our revolutionary origins. Byron made a passionate speech in front of the House of Lords, condemning a bill which made frame-breaking punishable by death. Lord Byron was very involved and aware of the Luddite situation taking place in the 1800's.

Walker, John. "The Croppers Song." URL:http://campus.murraystate.

edu/academic/faculty/kevin.binfield/songs.htm):Peel, Risings 47-48. "The Cropper's Song."


This song is attributed to Peel by John Walker, who sang it at a meeting of Huddersfield workers at the Shears Inn, Hightown, in February 1812. The song praises croppers, the skilled workers who cut finished cloth using handled shears. Walker sang it just before a group of croppers from Huddersfield and Liversedge croppers went out to Hartshead Moor, where they attacked a line of wagons delivering shearing frames to Cartwright's factory. The song gives an actual feeling of what the croppers were going through during the year, 1812.

"Luddites Songs and Verses." 1994. URL:http://campus.murraystate.

edu/academic/faculty/kevin.binfield/songs.htm (16 Jan. 2000)


This web site was very helpful and contained numerous primary sources regarding the Luddites. The site is information gathered by Murray State College. The site contains several songs written by Luddites during the Industrial Revolution. Each song has sources where the author of the page received the song. For example, the bulk of the research was found in the Home Office Papers in the Public Records Office at Kew. Some of the songs are also gathered from the manuscript collection of Sir Joseph Radcliffe, a magistrate during the Industrial Revolution who tried to put down the Luddite rising. The site was very resourceful.