Their name is synonymous with futile attempts to roll back technology _ and with fuddy-duddies who canít figure out how to use the iPhone.
The Luddites were British textile artisans who 200 years ago smashed the mechanized looms they thought threatened their jobs.
They werenít the first to attack machines. They are named after a man who probably didnít exist. And their grievances werenít even with the looms themselves; they were enraged at the business owners who hired unskilled laborers to use the machines and turn out shoddy products that ruined the artisansí reputation for quality.
Their movement began in economic misery. Britainís long war with Napoleon had taken a toll. The economy was squeezed by a French blockade that cut exports and sent food prices soaring. Their livelihoods threatened by low-wage labor, the artisans began demonstrating around Nottingham in 1811.
The protests _ and the machine-busting _ spread across a swath of central England. Some of the Luddites swung hammers forged by a blacksmith named Enoch Taylor, who also made machinery for their adversaries, mill owners. "Enoch made them," the Luddites would say. "So Enoch shall break them."
An outraged Parliament passed a law imposing the death penalty on machine wreckers _ a draconian move opposed by the poet Lord Byron, who said the Luddites deserved pity, not punishment.
This publicly distributed illustration from 1812 shows frame-breakers, or Luddites, smashing a loom. The Luddites were British textile artisans who 200 years ago smashed the mechanized looms they thought threatened their jobs. Machine-breaking was criminalized by the Parliament of the United Kingdom as early as 1721, but the Frame-Breaking Act 1812 made the death penalty available.
The government sent soldiers to restore order. At one point, the late historian Eric Hobsbawm has written, Britain had more troops deployed against the Luddites than (they) it had fighting Napoleon in Spain and Portugal.
Several Luddites were killed in clashes with troops. Others were hanged. By the end of 1814, the Luddite protests were over. The Industrial Revolution rolled on, replacing artisans with factory workers.
But the Luddites had made quite an impression. They had a talent for showmanship. They wrote mischievous, official-sounding decrees addressed from Sherwood Forest, an attempt to claim the legacy of Robin Hood. They marched through the streets dressed as women, claiming to be "General Luddís wives."
But there was no General Ludd.
Historians arenít sure where the name came from. Years earlier, by one account, a young apprentice named Ned Ludd had smashed the machine he was working on after being punished by his master. But in other accounts, the boyís name is Ludlum. And in his book on the Luddites, "Rebels Against the Future," author Kirkpatrick Sale suggests the term may have come from an expression used then in parts of England _ "sent all of a lud," which meant ruined.
Whatever its origins, the name stuck.
The Luddite label has been applied to everyone from anti-technology extremists _ such as the "Unabomber," Ted Kaczynski _ to those who merely struggle with technology or donít want to bother with it. "Iím a Luddite," pop star Elton John told Britainís The Telegraph newspaper in 2011. "I donít have a phone. I donít have a computer. I donít have an iPad. And I donít have an iPod."
Sometimes the Luddite label serves as an all-purpose epithet for someone whoís not with the times. When University of Chicago economist Raghuram Rajan raised unwelcome questions about the stability of the world financial system in 2005, for instance, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers dismissed his argument as "slightly Luddite."
Three years later, investment bank Lehman Bros. collapsed, and the global economy toppled into the deepest recession since the 1930s.
Anglo-Saxon Sword and Helmet from Staffordshire Hoard Reconstructed 2015-05-29 0:49
Thousands of metal fragments from the Staffordshire Hoard have been reconstructed into two "significant" new 7th Century objects.
Researchers have pieced together parts of a silver helmet and a previously unseen form of sword pommel.
The hoard, which is valued at ¬£3.2m, was found in a field near Burntwood, Staffordshire in July 2009.
Both items have been put on display at Birmingham's Museum ...
ALEC corruption: Legislators and corporate lobbyists meet in secret at Savannah resort 2015-05-28 23:59
The Georgia Legislature has a message for voters: don't ask us about our meetings with corporate lobbyists behind closed doors.
The 11Alive Investigators tracked lawmakers to a resort hotel in Savannah last week, where we observed state legislators and lobbyists mingling in the hotel bar the night before they gathered in private rooms to decide what new laws would best serve ...
Swedish politician: US is the true cause of the masses of refugees from the Middle East 2015-05-28 20:13
Editors Note: And who controls US foreign policy? Listen to Jeff Gates.
The present Swedish debate about war refugees from the Middle East is an example of peer restricted expression. In the name of political correctness or perceived decency, any questioning of maximum generosity in opening Swedish borders for the refugees is indignantly rejected by the official mainstream. We have a ...
Even if Patriot Act Expires, Government Will Keep Spying on All Americans 2015-05-28 19:52
Government Will Use "Secret Interpretations" to Get Around Legal Prohibitions
Mass surveillance under the Patriot Act is so awful that even its author says that the NSA has gone far beyond what the Act intended (and that the intelligence chiefs who said Americans aren't being spied on should be prosecuted for perjury).
Specifically, the government is using a "secret interpretation" of the ...
The TPP, Monsanto, Rockefeller, Trilateral Commission, Brzezinski 2015-05-28 19:18
All hands on deck for global, economic, corporate dictatorship
There are dots to connect here. They're real, and they're spectacular.
Let me begin with a brief exchange from a 1978 interview, conducted by reporter Jeremiah Novak. He was speaking with two American members of the Trilateral Commission (TC), a group founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller and his intellectual flunkey, Zbigniew Brzezinski.