Writings of the Luddites

ISBN 13: 9780801876127

Writings of the Luddites

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9780801876127: Writings of the Luddites

Named for their probably mythical leader, Ned Ludd, the Luddites were a group of social agitators in nineteenth-century Britain who tried to prevent the mechanization of cloth factories, which they blamed for increased unemployment, poverty, and hunger in industrial centers. Though famous for their often violent protests, the Luddites also engaged in literary resistance in the form of poems, proclamations, petitions, songs, and letters. In Writings of the Luddites, Kevin Binfield collects complete texts written by Luddites or Luddite sympathizers between 1811 and 1816, adds detailed notes, and organizes the documents by the three primary regions of origin: the Midlands, Northwestern England, and Yorkshire.

Binfield’s extensive introduction provides a historical overview of the Luddites and their activities, explores their rhetorical strategies, and illuminates their literary context. Written for the most part from a collective point of view, the texts themselves range from judicious to bloodthirsty in tone and reveal a fascination both with legal forms of address and with the more personal forms of Romantic literature, as well as with the recent political revolutions in France and America.

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About the Author:

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

From Publishers Weekly:

The Luddites have been appropriated by Marxist historians as pioneers of working-class self-awareness and by latter-day technophobes as early rebels against a dehumanizing machine civilization. This engaging academic study of authentic Luddite rhetoric seeks to rescue them from such "totalizing" interpretations and let them speak for themselves. Murray State University English professor Binfield amasses a wealth of original documents from the period 1811 to 1817, including articulate public appeals for higher wages and proscriptions against labor-saving industrial machinery, semi-literate death threats against employers who paid no heed to such appeals, songs and poems celebrating the exploits of the "perhaps apocryphal" Ned Ludd in demolishing the offending machines, and penitent letters from death row written by Ludd’s real-life followers. This is a fine-grained micro-history, exploring the variations between different regions of England and different sectors of the textile trade as workers sought to adapt the figure of Ludd to their small-scale struggles with the local economic and political establishment. Binfield finds a number of sometimes conflicting tendencies, including traditionalist citations of centuries-old customs and statutes regulating the textile industry, trade-unionist ambitions to gain a seat at the table with manufacturers, ostentatious legalism, and Jacobin calls to overthrow king and aristocracy alike. Binfield’s blend of labor history and rhetorical analysis is usually insightful, and scholars will find his illuminating commentary on the large selection of texts reprinted here a valuable resource for further research. Photos.
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Verlag: Johns Hopkins University Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 0801876125 ISBN 13: 9780801876127
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