Tuesday 5 June 2018

A Lesson in Luddites

Today I welcome the Jude Knight to the salon, for a lesson in Luddites!


The Not-So-Glorious Revolution of 1812
How sad that the textile artisans of Georgian England, doing their best to protect their jobs and also the quality of the cloth available to the public, have gone down in our collective memories as being against technology and progress.
The Luddites — named for the mythical machine breaker Ned or General Ludd — were in rebellion from 1811 to 1816, marching on the mills from which their skilled work had been ejected, breaking the machines they saw as overturning standard labour-master relationships, and talking about marching on London to appeal to the King.
They weren’t the first or the only group to try joint action in the hopes of improving their bargaining position, but it would be many years before such protest would be seen by the governing classes as anything other than dangerous treason.
The Luddites hoped that their raids and riots would mean a ban on the weaving machines. But England was at war with France, and memories of the French uprising against its government were still fresh in the minds of the upper classes. Not all of the upper classes. Lord Byron, a Nottinghamshire man, spoke defended the rioters in Parliament, and wrote the following poem.
Hangmen, Prison Ships, Spies and Battalions: The State fights back
'Those villains, the weavers, are all grown refractory,
Asking some succour for charity's sake-
So hang them in clusters round each Manufactory,
That will at once put an end to mistake.
Men are more easily made than machinery-
Stockings fetch better prices than lives-
Gibbets in Sherwood will heighten the scenery,
Showing how Commerce, how Liberty thrives!
Some folks for certain have thought it was shocking,
When Famine appeals, and when Poverty groans,
That life should be valued at less than a stocking,
And breaking of frames lead to breaking of bones.
If it should prove so, I trust, by this token,
(And who will refuse to partake in the hope?)
That the frames of the fools may be first to be broken,
Who, when asked for a remedy, send down a rope.'
Byron’s words fell on deaf ears. The government made machine breaking punishable by death, and sent more troops in to impose martial law than were currently fighting in Spain. By May 1812, there were 14,400 of them. One out of every 70 people in the midland counties was a soldier. 
The leaders of the Luddites, faced with such a huge military presence, felt that the rich had declared war and began to arm themselves. This alienated some of their support, who wanted reform, but wanted it by peaceful means. 
For a while, the support of their communities and their secret oaths kept those who were organising the riots safe, but soon various government officials and agencies sent out professional spies and paid informers to find, infiltrate, and betray them.
The tide turned in 1812, though the insurrection took several more years to fully trickle away. In early 1812, the action had become increasingly violent. Luddites assassinated a mill owner, and began raiding the houses of everyday citizens looking for weapons.
By winter of that year, the government had the names of a few dozen Luddites, and over the next 15 months held show trials to intimidate the remaining revolutionaries. 24 Luddites were hanged. Many more were sent to prison or shipped off to Australia.  
The Luddites were broken and the stage was set for the awful conditions of the factories that would so appal Dickens and the Victorian reformers, and that still prevail in some parts of the world today.
The Luddite insurrection is in the background of Jude Knight’s new book, The Realm of Silence. One of the villains is a government infiltrator, and another hopes to use industrial unrest to distract attention from his own plans.
The Realm of Silence
(Book 3 in the Golden Redepennings series)
Rescue her daughter, destroy her dragons, defeat his demons, go back to his lonely life. How hard can it be?
“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved…  the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.” George Eliot

When Susan Cunningham’s daughter disappears from school, her pleasant life as a fashionable, dashing, and respectable widow is shattered. Amy is reported to be chasing a French spy up the Great North Road, and when Susan sets out in pursuit she is forced to accept help from the last person she wants: her childhood friend and adult nemesis, Gil Rutledge.
Gil Rutledge has loved Susan since she was ten and he a boy of twelve. He is determined to oblige her by rescuing her daughter. And if close proximity allows them to rekindle their old friendship, even better. He has no right to ask for more.
Gil and Susan must overcome danger, mystery, ghosts from the past, and their own pride before their journey is complete.
Buy links and more information: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/the-realm-of-silence/
About Jude Knight
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.


Jude Knight said...

Thank you, Catherine.

Mary Anne Landers said...

Thanks, Jude. It might sound like an oxymoron, but I'm an Internet freak who's a Luddite at heart. Today's technology is so challenging. Its effects haven't all been good.

And I feel we've lost something precious by staying connected so much. Not to mention getting clobbered by information.

I feel considerable sympathy for the original Luddites. Who had even more to lose because technology was advancing. How sad that the powers-that-were didn't at least listen to them.