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Writings of the Luddites

Overview

As mechanization spread through the British cloth industries in the early nineteenth century, skilled textile workers, already suffering because of a generally weak economy, high unemployment, and the weakening of traditional guilds, saw their wages and jobs erode further. Earlier efforts to block the introduction of powered machinery through legislation had failed, and in 1811 loosely organized bands of workers, striking most often by night -- first in the Midlands, then in Yorkshire and Northwestern England -- ...
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Overview

As mechanization spread through the British cloth industries in the early nineteenth century, skilled textile workers, already suffering because of a generally weak economy, high unemployment, and the weakening of traditional guilds, saw their wages and jobs erode further. Earlier efforts to block the introduction of powered machinery through legislation had failed, and in 1811 loosely organized bands of workers, striking most often by night -- first in the Midlands, then in Yorkshire and Northwestern England -- began destroying the new knitting frames and other equipment. Claiming as their leader the probably mythical Ned Ludd, they became known as Luddites. Although best known for violent action, the Luddite movement also produced a considerable body of writing, from threatening letters, to petitions and proclamations, to poems and songs. In this book, literary scholar Kevin Binfield collects a broad range of complete texts written by Luddites or their sympathizers from 1811 to 1816, adding detailed notes on each and organizing them according to the three major regions of Luddite activity.

To introduce the volume Binfield provides a historical overview of the Luddites, then examines more closely their rhetorical strategies while illuminating the literary contexts of their writings. Ranging from judicious to bloodthirsty in tone, the texts reveal a fascination with legal forms of address and an acute awareness of the recent political revolutions in France and America, and reflect also the more personal forms of Romantic literature. As Adrian Randall of the University of Birmingham concludes in his foreword, this collection of diverse, carefully presented texts clearly demonstrates the significance of Luddite writings within the movement and serves as an important reference for scholars of rhetoric and of the history of labor, technology, and society.

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Editorial Reviews

Christianity Today - John Wilson

Think what I might have accomplished... if I hadn't had my nose buried in Writings of the Luddites.

Enterprise and Society - Marc W. Steinberg

This work shines not just as a collection on an important topic but more generally as an artisanal guide to the art and mystery of archival research.

Eighteenth-Century Current Bibliography - Michael Austin

Kevin Binfield has collected more primary Luddite documents than have ever been published before, but he has also used his considerable skills... to contextualize each document.

Christianity Today - John Wilson

Think what I might have accomplished... if I hadn't had my nose buried in Writings of the Luddites.

Modern Language Review

This very welcome book provides an introduction to the Midlands, Northwestern, and Yorkshire Luddism.

Eighteenth-Century Current Bibliography
Kevin Binfield has collected more primary Luddite documents than have ever been published before, but he has also used his considerable skills... to contextualize each document.

— Michael Austin

Enterprise and Society
This work shines not just as a collection on an important topic but more generally as an artisanal guide to the art and mystery of archival research.
Christianity Today
Think what I might have accomplished... if I hadn't had my nose buried in Writings of the Luddites.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801876127
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 1,308,825
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Binfield is a professor of English at Murray State University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Documents vii
Foreword xiii
Preface xix
Note on Texts and Citation xxiii
Introduction 1
Midlands Luddism 19
Northwestern Luddism 32
Yorkshire Luddism 47
Midlands Documents 69
Northwestern Documents 167
Yorkshire Documents 199
Notes 239
Bibliography 267
Index 273
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