Luddism and England’s Industrial Revolution

Examines the origins, organization and consequences of the Luddite movement during England’s industrial revolution.

The aim of this paper is to outline the causes, objectives, and organization of the Luddite movement in the Industrial Revolution, and the spate of industrial warfare that it set off throughout England. In addition, it seeks to rethink the efficacy of the movement as it affected the Industrial Revolution by making a case – as Eric Hobsbawn has done so convincingly – for a fairer estimation of the Luddites as a force of coercion against their employers. The limited life-span of Luddism, along with its rapid and crushing defeat, has suggested that machine-breaking was a dismal failure. And in some ways, this is true. But this is only part of the story. This essay will highlight some of the tangible successes of this collective bargaining by riot and sabotage, and will also mention some of the values of the technique as they manifested themselves in contemporary working class conditions.