Writings of the Luddites

Writings of the Luddites

by Kevin Binfield
     
 

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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,…  See more details below

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.

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.

Keats-Shelley Journal - Ben P. Robertson
The first anthology of its kind, this collection is meticulously edited and carefully documented.... Writings of the Luddites is a welcome addition to the corpus of scholarly work that addresses machine-breaking in England.

The Luddite Link
This volume makes available and accessible a wealth of textual and cultural information that has been overlooked for far too long by literary scholars and cultural historians alike.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801876127
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
05/28/2004
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.06(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Malcom I. Thomas

Like most people, I had too readily accepted that Luddite actions spoke more loudly than words and that historians were handicapped by the paucity of authentic working-class writing. This is, I believe, a ground-breaking work.

Stephen C. Behrendt

This volume makes available and accessible a wealth of textual and cultural information that has been overlooked for far too long by literary scholars and cultural historians alike. It opens a window upon the writings and rhetoric of a volatile and often dangerous group of activists whose activities were well known to the contemporary cultural elite, the political establishment, and the masses, and whose threat to the social and political system of the times was very real. Binfield's scholarship is meticulous and his writing lively and engaging. The impact of this book for studies of British Romantic culture cannot be overestimated.

Meet the Author

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

Johns Hopkins University Press

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