Anarchism and Technology

I am starting with the Luddits- E. P. Thompson in ‘The Making of the English Working Class’ (1963) places the Luddits as central for the development of trade unions and class consciousness (Thompson does not interpret the Luddits as anti-technology but as anti-free market). The Luddits were skilled trades-people who, perceiving machines as threat to their wages and their profession, used direct action, both towards the machines and their owners. The mainly operated in the Midlands and on the North between March 1811 and April 1817. Kevin Binfield locates the Luddites in a history of anti-machine actions that turned against windmills, steam-powered looms, wide-knitting frames and so on), that took place between 1799 and 1802. He accounts for their first action on March 11, 1811 when they, for the first time smashed the frames of knitting machines, in Nottingham.

‘Letters dated 13 and 14 November 1811 request that the government dispatch military aid because “2000 men, many of them armed, were riotously traversing the County of Nottingham.”‘

Luddism spread to Manchester and its cotton industry, and the Yorkshire woolen industry. It eventually fell apart after 1812, when an attack to a mill led to  the murder of the owner by George Mellor and his comrades.



Kevin Binfield, ed., ‘Writings of the Luddites’ (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004)

Kirkpatrick Sale ‘Rebels against the Future’ (1995)

Brian Bailey’s ‘The Luddite Rebellion’ (1998)

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