Machine-breakers, called after leader General Ned [Edwin] Ludd, also known as King Ludd. In 1811-16 textile workers in the east midlands, south Lancashire, and west Yorkshire met secretly in public houses or on the moors, took oaths, and smashed the machinery of mill-owners who refused their demands.
At a time when trade unions were illegal, Luddism was an attempt to coerce employers not to throw hundreds of men, women, and children out of work rather than hostility to machines as such. Luddites were tracked down and their alleged leaders hanged or transported to the British penal colonies in Australia.
Luddites, name given to bands of workingmen in the industrial centers of England who rioted between 1811 and 1816. The uprisings began in Nottinghamshire, where groups of textile workers, in the name of a mythical figure called Ned Ludd, or King Ludd, destroyed knitting machines, to which they attributed the prevailing unemployment and low wages. In 1812 workers in Lancashire, Cheshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire began to wreck cotton power looms and wool shearing machines. There was no political aim involved and no cohesion in the movement. Outbreaks of Luddism were very harshly suppressed by the government.
The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt was leaving them without work and changing their way of life. It took its name from Ned Ludd.
The movement emerged in the harsh economic climate of the Napoleonic Wars and difficult working conditions in the new textile factories. The principal objection of the Luddites was to the introduction of new wide-framed automated looms that could be operated by cheap, relatively unskilled labour, resulting in the loss of jobs for many skilled textile workers. The movement began in 1811 and 1812, when mills and pieces of factory machinery were burned by hand loom weavers, and for a short time was so strong that Luddites clashed in battles with the British Army. Measures taken by the British government to suppress the movement included a mass trial at York in 1812 that resulted in many executions and penal transportations.
The action of destroying new machines had a long tradition before the Luddites, especially within the textile industry. Many inventors of the 18th century were attacked by vested interests who were threatened by new and more efficient ways of making yarn and cloth. Samuel Crompton, for example, had to hide his new spinning mule in the roof of his house at Hall i' th' Wood in 1779 to prevent it being destroyed by the mob.
In modern usage, "Neo-Luddite" is a term describing those opposed to industrialization, automation, computerization or new technologies in general.