Past Blog Posts:

The Luddites

Filed under History/The Book of Days

Thanks to Chambers’ Almanac, The Book of Days:

March 11th, 1811, is a black-letter day in the annals of Nottinghamshire. It witnessed the commencement of a series of riots which, extending over a period of five years, have, perhaps, no parallel in the history of a civilized country for the skill and secrecy with which they were managed, and the amount of wanton mischief they inflicted. The hosiery trade, which employed a large part of the population, had been for some time previously in a very depressed state. This naturally brought with it a reduction in the price of labour.

During the month of February 1811, numerous bands of distressed framework-knitters were employed to sweep the streets for a paltry sum, to keep the men employed, and to prevent mischief. But by the 11th of March their patience was exhausted: and flocking to the market-place from town and country, they resolved to take vengeance on those employers who had reduced their wages. The timely appearance of the military prevented any violence in the town, but at night no fewer than sixty-three frames were broken at Arnold, a village four miles north of Nottingham. During the succeeding three weeks 200 other stocking frames were smashed by midnight bands of distressed and deluded workmen, who were so bound together by illegal oaths, and so completely disguised, that very few of them could be brought to justice. These depredators assumed the name of Luddites; said to have been derived from a youth named Ludlam, who, when his father, a framework-knitter in Leicestershire, ordered him to ‘square his needles,’ took his hammer and beat them into a heap.

More about The Luddites (with historical context of the hardships suffered by the working class during the Napoleonic Wars) or more of The Book of Days’ commentary about the The Luddites in 1811-16.

I read The Book of Days’ entry for each day of the year during the year 2000 (the “Book” is actually a 2-volume set of approx. 1500 pages). It’s a fascinating glimpse of what was probably common knowledge in the Victorian age. More info:
Chambers’ Almanac, The Book of Days.

Posted by Leslie, March 11th, 2011

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