Friday, 4 November 2011

Event - 200 years on the Luddites' cry echoes down the years as technology marches on (Nottingham)

NOTTINGHAM'S most famous outlaw may be Robin Hood, but 200 years ago today another band of men fought the law.

On the night of November 4, 1811, in Bulwell, a group of men gathered weapons, broke into a workhouse and smashed six looms used to make stockings. From this, the Luddite movement was born and over the next few years battles occurred with the Government as the Luddites tried to resist new technologies.

But David King, of the Luddite 200 movement, said there was a lot of confusion about what 'Luddite' actually meant.

He said: "The idea that Luddites are against all technology is completely wrong – we're not opposed to technology, we just believe that people should be mindful of the consequences of technology.

"Rather than saying technology is good and subscribing to the cult of technology that exists, Luddites have a more sceptical approach to these advances.

"Luddism is still applicable in modern-day society – one of the recent movements that echoes the movements in the 1800s is against GM crops. Just as people smashed up looms 200 years ago, people have torn up fields of crops to protest against this form of technology."

The Luddite uprising was a direct protest against changes to work caused by the industrial revolution.

As factory owners began to invest in machinery to speed up production, the skilled workers felt their trade was under threat. Mr King said: "The workers destroyed their machines to complain against what they saw as the negative impact of the new machines on their trade.

"Something like this could only have started in Nottingham – it was the centre of textile manufacturing and there was a strong sense of community among the workers in places like Bulwell.

"But you also have to consider the historical context of the movement too – people were starving because of the depression and felt they had to take the law into their own hands."

The Government made 'machine breaking' a capital offence in 1812, and many Luddites were either executed or sent to Australia as prisoners over the following years.

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Luddite movement, a talk will be given by local historian Chris Wer about the uprisings in 1811 and 1812 as well as discussions by Michael Reinsborough about the Luddite movement in the 21st century.

It will take place tonight at 7pm at the Sumac Centre, in Gladstone Street, Forest Fields.

Organiser Ian Hewitt said the messages of the movement are still applicable in today's society.

He said: "In the current recession, the Nottingham Luddites' crusade against 'machinery hurtful to Commonality' resonates strongly."

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