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LUDDITES

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 111 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LUDDITES, the name given to organized bands of English rioters for the destruction of machinery, who made their first appearance in Nottingham and the neighbouring districts to-wards the end of 1811. The origin of the name is given in Pellew's Life of Lord Sidmouth (iii. 8o). In 1779 there lived in a village in Leicestershire a person of weak intellect, called Ned Ludd, who was the butt of the boys of the village. On one occasion Ludd pursued one of his tormentors into a house where were two of the frames used in stocking manufacture, and, not being able to catch the boy, vented his anger on the frames. Afterwards, whenever any frames were broken, it became a common saying that Ludd had done it. The riots arose out of the severe distress caused by the war with France. The leader of the riotous bands took the name of " General Ludd." The riots were specially directed against machinery because of the widespread prejudice that its use produced a scarcity in the demand for labour. Apart from this prejud oe, it was inevitable that the economic and social revolution implied in the change from manual labour to work by machinery should give rise to great misery. The riots began with the destruction of stocking and lace frames, and, continuing through the winter and the following spring, spread into Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. They were met by severe repressive legislation, introduced by Lord Liverpool's government, a notable feature in the opposition to, which was Lord Byron's speech in the House of Lords. In 1816 the rioting was resumed, caused by the depression which followed the peace of 1815 and aggravated by one of the worst of recorded harvests. In that year, although the centre of the rioting was again in Nottingham, it extended over almost the whole kingdom. The rioters were also thoroughly organized. While part of the band destroyed the machinery, sentinels were posted to give warning of the approach of the military. Vigorous repressive measures, and, especially, reviving prosperity, brought the movement to an end. See G. Pellew, Life and Correspondence of H. Addington, isf Viscount Sidmouth (London, 1847) ; Spencer Walpole, History of England, vol. i. (London, 189o) ; and the Annual Register for 181I, 1812 and 1816.
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