|An 'Enoch' Sledgehammer, as manufactured by Enoch & James Taylor of Marsden & put to good use by Luddites|
2011 & 2012 sees the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings in the midlands and north of England. After an initial sudden outburst in Spring 1811 amongst framework-knitters in Nottinghamshire, discontent gestated until November 1811, when the self proclaimed 'Army of Redressers' emerged once again, this time proclaiming allegiance to the mythical avatar 'General Ludd'. Though the outbreaks were initially located in and around Nottinghamshire and were concerned chiefly with industrial disputes, they soon entered into parts of South Derbyshire and Leicestershire, before extended further north to Lancashire & Cheshire amongst weavers and most notably amongst the cloth-dressers of West Yorkshire in 1812, by which time the uprisings had taken on a wholly different character: opposed to the Napoleonic War, tyranny and the direction that a particularly militant version of laissez-faire capitalism had begun to take, using new technology to drive down wages and break the power of highly organised workers. Though the uprisings continued in a muted form all the way into 1816 in the Midlands, the back was broken in the north by early 1813, with show-trials, mass executions, deportations and the virtual occupation of the region by 12,000 troops, more than were currently engaged in conflict on the continent in the Napoleonic Wars.
The Northern Anarchist Network plans to facilitate a booklet to mark the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings at their zenith, in April 2012. We are looking for contributions, chiefly original articles and artwork, but any kind of work that fits into the printed format will be considered (i.e. poetry, creative writing). Articles of any reasonable length will be considered.
We welcome original submissions of all kinds, but it you are stuck for ideas, we have some themes we have come up with that interest us:
- The local history of Luddism from where you live
- Caravats in Ireland 1806-1811 & the parallels with Luddism
- Enclosure of the commons, 200 years ago and today
- The 'neutrality' of technology
- The role of technology in the modern workplace
- Why does 'the left' ignore the Luddites?
- The politics of rioting
- E.P. Thompson & the Luddites
- Disappearing workers, skilled and unskilled: from self-service checkouts to 3D printing
- General Ludd in the North, Captain Swing in the South
You may have your own ideas, and we would welcome discussing them with you.
We are Anarchists, but we welcome contributions from comrades across the Libertarian Communist spectrum, and beyond: we are happy to consider articles from those who feel outside any political spectrum but are willing to contribute regardless.
Although this is the Northern Anarchist Network, we welcome ideas from anywhere in the world.
We plan to have the booklet published by April 2012, and will be seeking expressions of interest until the end of October 2011. We request that a first draft is submitted by the end of November 2011 at the very latest.
We feel that for a number of reasons, the history of the Luddites and their messages and significance down the generations have been distorted and all-too-often ignored, quite often wilfully. There is an opportunity over the next 12 months to rehabilitate and to begin to regularly celebrate the machine-breakers from 200 years ago from whom we can still learn so much.