Machine-wrecking for one purpose or another was by no means new. The Spitalfields weavers had wrecked machinery even in the seventeenth century, and wrecking had frequently recurred, both accompanying strike action and independently. But these had been isolated instances, symbolical acts of terrorism, while the Luddites alone carried out a systematic campaign of machine-wrecking. In this period (up to 1815) there were three Luddite movements — in the Midlands, in Yorkshire, and in Lancashire and Cheshire. They were only partially interconnected: the grievances and motives were different, so that, apart from the difficulties and dangers of communications, it is improbable that there was much unity between the three groups. In the Midlands, machinery was wrecked not because it saved labour, but because certain new machines were used to produce goods of an inferior quality, which, it was believed, had brought discredit on the industry and loss of trade, and so had caused the deepening poverty of the knitters. In Yorkshire, on the other hand, the motive was certainly to prevent the spread of the shearing-gigs, on the ground that they displaced labour. In Lancashire and Cheshire opposition to the new labour-saving steam looms was mixed with protests against the rise in food prices.
KeywordsSeventeenth Century Food Price Office Paper Inferior Quality Systematic Campaign
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.