Saturday, September 21, 2013

Luddites: Taking Sides

During the British Industrial Revolution, not all were happy and ecstatic with the new advances in technology. There was a group of people, who were unhappy with the use of these new technologies. The Luddites, as they were called, often raided factories that contained the frames that made textile goods. The Luddites were men, who before the industrial revolution were skilled weavers, mechanics or other artisans. They took their name from their claimed founder, "King Ludd" in truth, Ned Ludd was a worker in a factory who in a fit of rage, smashed two knitting frames. They did not inherently dislike technology, but they strongly disapproved of the use of this technology to make lower quality goods and to pay workers less. They believed that the technology should be used to improve the lives of all people: the workers, the consumers and the society. However, the owners of these factories were making much more money than they needed and were not sufficiently paying their workers. They luddites wanted to punish the factory owners for their "crimes." The Luddites almost never attacked people directly, and most of the blood that was shed during this time period was soldiers killing Luddites out of fear. We can learn from the Luddites to think about technology, is it truly helping us, or is it just absorbing part of our life? The following paragraph is a mock primary source letter that is written from the point of view of  a skilled weaver to their cousin in America.
"King Ludd" The Mythical Leader of the Luddites

Dearest Cousin John,
Here in England, we are enveloped in a state of turmoil, an "Industrial Revolution" is occurring and I, for one am not sure it is for the better. There are massive, loud machines lined up by the hundreds in factories, that work day and night, fabricating textiles and other goods. They employ small children who often get injured or killed by their moving pieces. Worst of all, the goods they make are scrappy and cheap. The workers on the machines get paid even less than before. However, there is a ray of hope, a group of men, who call themselves the Luddites are protesting these atrocities. They hate the lower wages and dangerous working conditions; and much like me, they are losing their jobs to these newfound machines. The Luddites sneak into factories at night, or even in broad daylight, and destroy these horrid machines that are disrupting our wellbeing. This industrialization has cut my profits in half, and I am now in serious need of basic necessities. The factories produce similar goods as I do, and they sell it for cheaper. My skills are nearly obsolete due to these wretched beasts in the factories. I am going to join in this Luddite rage against the machines. I promise to personally destroy dozens of frames, in order to preserve mine, and other's jobs. This may be dangerous work, and this may be the last you ever hear from me. Wish me luck, and tell the family that I love them.
Yours Truly, William Webb

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