Technology is evil and is not to be trusted. It should be destroyed immediately.

Most people would attribute that opening to a luddite. A luddite is someone who fears technology and therefore refuses to use it. At least, that's what most people think a luddite is.

It's a good thing I'm here to set everyone straight.

First off, it's Luddite, not luddite. Note the capital 'L'. The reason for that is, a Luddite was the follower of a belief. A belief that was shared by Ned Ludd when he first acted in 1779.

Maybe I should just start at the beginning.

About 13.5 billion years a go, there was nothing. Until a singularity appeared. It then expanded.....


Hmm....maybe I don't need to go that far back......

Ok, we'll go back to the time of the Industrial Revolution. Prior to the advent of industrial machines, everything was made by artisans, by hand. This included everything from food stuffs, to pottery, to clothing, to the cloth used to make the clothes.

Most of the people who specialized in a trade formed guilds. They acted as precursors to unions. One of these guilds, the Stocking Makers, had been actively trying to improve their working conditions since 1665.


During the Industrial Revolution, machines were developed that made stockings. The machines were faster and cheaper. This irked the stockingers. They mumbled and grumbled.

But the real impetus to rebellion didn't occur until an advancement in the textile industry. That is the invention of the 'Jacquards Automatic Weaving Loom'. This allowed for an unskilled laborer to produce lace faster and cheaper than the artisans could.

In 1779, Ned Ludd, fed up with the working conditions, took a sledge hammer to two of the looms and utterly destroyed them.


Ludd wasn't the first artisan to break a machine. In 1711 parliament had made machine breakage an offense punishable by Penal Transportation. (shipping the convicted off to Botany Bay in Australia).

All over England, these new looms were putting artisans out of work. And those that were able to keep their jobs saw their hours increased and their wages cut.

Things came to a head at the start of the Napoleonic Wars. Textile artisans had had enough. Following the lead of Ned Ludd, they started breaking machinery. They organized into groups, and they trained, not unlike the military.


For the first part of the 19th century, they burned mills, destroyed machines and threatened their opponents with death. Mill owners built hidden safe rooms in their factories because the threat of attack was so real.

The Luddites were especially active in Nottinghamshire, York and Lancashire. The government of England took notice, and by 1811, the British army was actively engaging with the Luddites.

At one point, there were more British soldiers fighting the Luddites than were fighting Napoleon.


In 1813, three Luddites assassinated a mill owner named William Horsfall. Horsfall had been vocal about dealing harshly with the Luddites, so he was silenced.

The three men responsible for the murder were caught. But the army didn't stop there. They rounded up about sixty men, some Luddites, some just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were all put on trial in York.

This was not a trial n the fair sense of the word. It was a sham trial designed to find as many people guilty as they could so they could dole out harsh punishments. Every man was found guilty with most of them being sentenced to death. The remaining being sent to the penal colony in Australia. As many as 50% of the men placed on trial had nothing to do with the Luddite movement. (an act of parliament in 1811 had made machine breaking punishable by death)


Shortly after the trials, the Luddite movement died down. It never totally went away, but it faded into the background, and violent acts became rare.

Today, we use the term Luddite to refer to people who fear technology, or are stuck in the past, fearing change.

But in reality, the term Luddite refers to a machine breaker. Someone who used violence to protest their 'technological unemployment'. That's a phrase coined by the economist John Maynard Keyes in 1930. He went on to point out that while technology will cause the loss of jobs in one sector, it usually corresponds to new jobs being created in another area.


So, when you use the term Luddite to refer to someone, just remember what you're actually calling them.

***Authors Note***

In 1996, the Second Luddite Congress gathered and created a manifesto promoting the "passive resistance to consumerism and the increasingly bizarre and frightening technologies of the Computer Age."


They say that, just because it's newer and faster, it doesn't mean it's better. They also claim that taking the human component out of manufacturing removes more than cost. (they do have some valid points, but not enough to make me reject tech)

Some Neo-Luddites promote vandalism against tech, but most are content to not use it and encourage others to give it up.

Personally, I view technophobes as Troglodytes. (I just like the word 'troglodyte'....)