History Mesh

Luddite riots (19th Century)

The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested (often by destroying mechanized looms) against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt was leaving them without work and changing their way of life.

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.

In modern usage, “Luddite” is a term describing those opposed to industrialization, automation, computerization or new technologies in general.

Relation to Textiles:

People had been destroying mechanised looms and spinning devices long before the Luddite riots, but in 1811 the Luddite movement started spreading through England. The Luddites met at night on the moors surrounding the industrial towns, practising drills and maneuvers, and often enjoyed local support.

There were battles between the military and the Luddites, and many people were the object of death threats and attacks by the anonymous King Ludd and his supporters. Some industrialists even had secret chambers constructed in their buildings as hiding places, in case the Luddites came looking for them.

The riots eventually came to an end after the murder of William Horsfall by three Luddites, and their subsequent convictions and hanging, though working-class discontent continued throughout the 19th century.

Read more about Luddite riots on Wikipedia.