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Rebels Against The Future
Write Dope on Pnuk part 88
Two hundred years ago, through the North Midlands, there were a series of planned riots aimed at destroying certain new weaving machines. This so worried the British Government that despite being at war with Napoleon more troops were mobilised in the area under revolt than had been sent to Portugal and Spain. When a law was debated to make it a capital offence to destroy a machine, the poet Byron, in the House of Lords, spoke out against it.
The author admits in the preface that this is a biased book on the Luddities in that they share much the same concerns when it comes to the present new technologies that are changing work in our own times. The bulk of the book is the study of the events of 1811 through to 1813 and beyond. Many details are given, from the anonymous letters to the eventual court cases when people received sentences up to transportation and execution. The last two chapters in the book are a study of the neo-Luddites of our own era, be they protests against nuclear (or other) power stations or the genetic modification of crops (two of many examples I’m sure we could all think of). The author also looks to what lessons can be learned from the Luddities for grounding any contemporary movement into the popular rather than elitist sections of society.
The Luddities were one facet of a wider unrest in the early nineteenth century, with expressions locally to myself in the Littleport riot of 1815, the Whittlesey stocking riots of 1811 – 1819, and wider with the Rebecca riots against toll roads in Wales and the Captain Swing burnings of around 1830.
Interesting book, well written and well worth hunting out if you can.
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