The Frame-breakers

I read this blog post from Amy of Spin-Off magazine which made me think about the Luddites and their motivation. Wool and cotton mills and spinning and weaving machinery were broken and burned.

The recent distubances in London have similarities to the actions of the 19th century textile workers, but also some important contrasts.

'Luddite' is a term used about someone who has a fear of new technology. I think that's a bit unfair; the Luddites weren't simply afraid of technology and progress.

Unlike the young people in our cities recently, Ned Ludd and his followers were clear about their purpose. They valued their skills and employment and were fighting for their jobs and way of life. They believed in a skill-based economy and were resisting a move to automation and unskilled jobs.

Some were executed or transported for their actions.

Although it's not proved possible to halt automation and technology, we can't shake off connections with the past. It's clear that we still feel the need to develop and use manual skills to create beautiful and useful things.


Allabitrandom said...

Small children were "usefully" occupied clearing soot from chimneys too! If only they knew how lucky they are now. I expect the children of the Luddites craved learning and went without shoes if they did not have them, whilst these have by-passed book shops and just want luxuries.
I think I will get back to my knitting - much simpler than trying to ponder on the world's ills.

peahen said...

Thanks for that, it certainly made me think.

abolishing child labour and employment laws have certainly improved our society (though there are some children around here I would like to put up a chimney).

But children sweeping chimneys is not the skilled labour that Ned Lud was trying to preserve, and I think it's true that in high-skill economies like ours, people are better educated and shod than in low-skill ones.

You're right - this thinking really is hard work!