Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age

Kirkpatrick Sale, Author
Kirkpatrick Sale, Author Addison Wesley Publishing Company $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-201-62678-0
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-201-40718-1
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-7043-8007-3
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Legendary Englishman Ned Ludd hated work so much that his master whipped him, whereupon he took revenge by destroying his knitting frame. In 1812, his followers, the Luddites--weavers, combers, dressers of wool and artisans--banded together to fight with pike and gun ``progress, or what was held to be progress.'' With the introduction of the Industrial Revolution, their former way of life was ending. The Luddites took their stand in Nottingham at the factory of one William Cartwright. The retribution, according to the author, ``called forth the greatest spasm of repression Britain ever in its history used against domestic dissent.'' Sale draws distinct portraits of both sides. The Luddites, reminiscent of the quixotic Irish Fenians of the 1860s, fought not only for survival but also for principle, sacrificing their lives for land and better conditions for laborers. The mill owners and politicians, on the other hand, were anti-union, pro-child labor, polluters of stream and sky and in favor of mass deforestation and demanded 10- to 18-hour workdays. Sale (The Conquest of Paradise) also displays the Luddites' situation in a modern context when he compares the Industrial Revolution to the information superhighway, situations ``with unprecedented technological consequences.'' He has done a magnificent job of showing us the past and given us a peek into our future. (May)
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