Letters and Politics, KPFA July 29th, 2019
The original Luddites were British weavers and textile workers who objected to the mechanical advancements of the Industrial Revolution. When the economic pressures of the Napoleonic Wars made the cheap competition of early textile factories particularly threatening to the artisans, a few desperate weavers began breaking into factories and smashing textile machines. They called themselves “Luddites” after Ned Ludd, a young apprentice who is said to have wrecked a textile apparatus in 1779. In his newest work, Peter Linebaugh tells the story of Queen Mab, who through her personification in Shelley’s poem of that name composed in 1812, becomes the symbol of a radical critique of western civilization as a whole. Today, we have a conversation with Peter Linebaugh about the effects new technology and capitalism had on the Luddites.
Guest: Peter Linebaugh is an American Marxist historian who specializes in British history, Irish history, labor history, and the history of the colonial Atlantic. He is also a professor emeritus of history at the University of Toledo, as well as a member of the Midnight Notes Collective. He has authored several books including his most recent, Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day and his pamphlet Ned Ludd & Queen Mab: Machine-Breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons of 1811-12.