Thursday 28 April 2011

'The Original Luddites' - Katrina Navickas & Jeremy Black on BBC Radio 3 Nightwaves

Historians Jeremy Black and Katrina Navickas debating the Luddites, from BBC Radio 3 'Nightwaves' on Tuesday night. We may add our own thoughts at a later date.

Luddite commemorations: the Luddites200 Organising Forum

The first, and so far only, explicitly political group set up to commemorate the bicentenary are the Luddites200 Organising Forum. The group emerged from the 2010 London Anarchist Bookfair, with a brief to celebrate the Luddite bicentenary, attempt to rehabilitate the term 'Luddite' and to focus on contemporary technology politics On their website, there's a founding statement which we'll reproduce below:
November 2011 – January 2013 are the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings: a great opportunity to celebrate their struggle and to redress the wrongs done to them and their name. Today science and technology raises many more critical social, environmental and ethical issues, but from GM food and eugenics to plans for engineering the planets climate, from surveillance to nuclear power, these issues are rarely addressed properly, partly because anyone who raises criticism is denigrated as a ‘luddite’. History has been written by the victors and the Luddites are portrayed as opposed to all technology and progress: it is ironic that while the ideology of technology as progress has hardened into a rigid dogma, which must condemn all critics as ‘anti-science’, in fact the Luddites opposed only technology ‘hurtful to commonality’, (i.e. the common good). They destroyed some machines whilst leaving others, and earnt their living using a complex piece of technology, the hand loom. In their spirit, we make no apology for calling for real democratic control over science and technology.
Like the Luddite Link, the project is in the early stages, but their website also tells us that they plan "public events throughout the country, including arts and theatre projects and a poetry competition, and a conference for technology politics activists." We also understand that they have a short slot to promote the project at next week's Luddite conference at Birkbeck.

We will keep you informed of developments with this group.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Luddite commemorations: West Yorkshire's 'Luddite Link'

Whilst there is still no news of any kind of commemorative events from Nottinghamshire, West Yorkshire has already announced it is planning to remember the Luddites in 2012.

The University of Huddersfield and Kirklees Museums and Libraries have announced the Luddite Link, a project which aims to act as a portal for information about resources and events provided by organisations and institutions in West Yorkshire commemorating the bicentenary. A website has appeared with some details, and you can also sign up for a mailing list to receive advance notification of events.

One to watch going forward into 2012.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

20th April 1811: Report from the Nottingham Journal

Seven days after the previous reported instance of frame-breaking, the Nottingham Journal published a report1, which we have transcribed below, about the measures being taken by the authorities to quell the disturbances in Nottinghamshire.

What's most interesting about this report is that it admits that Bow Street Runners were active in the area a full ten months prior to the more well-known appearance of the fellow Bow Street magistrates Conant & Baker who were sent to Nottingham amidst the second wave of disturbances. It's certainly the only reference we can find to the presence of the fledgling police force prior to 1812.

The authorities were quite clearly most concerned about the relationship between the proto-Luddites and the crowd, with the latter displaying no intention to intervene in the direct action taking place, and this article serves as a warning, perhaps even hinting at collective punishment for those who "by being spectators, became abettors in the mischief." Given that the uprising had died down following an agreement between the Hosiers and Frame-work Knitters in the previous month, it's also possible to see the vanity of the authorities wishing to attribute the waning of the disturbances to the actions they had taken. There was no question of their admitting that the direct action of the Frame-work Knitters had brought the Hosiers back into line - no chance of admitting that violence and direct action worked.
We congratulate the public upon the vigorous proceedings adopted for putting an end to the shameful system of destroying frames, which has been lately pursued in this neighbourhood. In addition to the liberal rewards offered, some of the most active and intelligent Officers from Bow Street are now employed, and have been in the adjacent villages in the last week. Their known ability gives us every reason to expect, that an effectual stop will be put to the diabolical proceedings of a set of men, who, under the pretence of preventing an evil, have inflicted the most grievous injury upon their most industrious neighbours, by depriving them of the means of obtaining bread for their families, and have brought upon themselves the execration of all good men. The County Magistrates, we learn, have requested the continued services of these vigilant and indefatigable Officers, for an indefinite period. On this subject we cannot refrain from expressing our regret at the cultural apathy exhibited in the late tumultuous proceedings, in cases where the mischief was performed by ten or twelve individuals, in the pretence of, perhaps, two or three hundred, who, by being spectators, became abettors in the mischief, and thus justly rendered themselves liable to punishment. We understand that the County Magistrates have determined to punish with the utmost severity of the law, all persons who may be brought before them, for being present at any riotous and disorderly assemblage, where destruction of property has ensued.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

13th April 1811: frame breaking at Bulwell

Almost two weeks after the last reported incident of frame breaking, six more frames were destroyed at Bulwell. Thomis tells us that a reward of 100 guineas was offered, which is double the amount offered by the authorities towards the end of March.1

Frames had already been broken in Bulwell during the fortnight following the Arnold incident, and in 7 months time, it would become a place of some notoriety.