Sunday 20 March 2016

20th March 1816: The Luddite, John Dann, is sentenced to death at Nottingham Assizes for Highway Robbery

On Wednesday 20th March 1816, John Simpson, aka the Luddite John Dann, was sentenced to death  at Nottingham Assizes for undertaking two highway robberies.

It's currently not possible to know if the Home Office put pressure on the trial Judge to deliver a death sentence for Dann, although the Town Clerk of Nottingham, Henry Enfield, had written to the Home Secretary to suggest such an intervention. Given that Enfield (and George Coldham before him) was relying on an informer for his information about Dann's involvement in Luddism, it's also difficult to know the truth about how implicated he was in the various actions he was alleged to have undertaken.

In any event, the general public would remain unaware of any allegations of Luddism against Dann, (or Simpson, as he was known in this case) because they were not referred to in this trial, either at the time, or afterwards. Indeed, Dann's case seems to have escaped the attention of historians of Luddism, even those with a particularly local focus on Nottinghamshire and a reactionary view that equated Luddism with criminal activity, such as Malcolm Thomis.

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