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The Curious Case of Yorkshire Luddism

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This argument-driven paper will probe the industrial precedents and cultural legacy of machine breaking in the West Riding of Yorkshire during the spring of 1812. The central analysis will characterise Luddism as a conservative economic and social phenomenon with a provenance in the sense of entitlement found in earlier trade societies, and argue against seeing the movement as part of the broader sweep of nineteenth-century political development.

Although the paper will focus on Luddism in Yorkshire, it will be argued that the analysis and conclusions can be (substantively) extended to the other industrial regions in which unrest occurred. A range of evidential classes will be harnessed in support of this argument, including Luddite letters, prosecution papers from the Home Office and Treasury Solicitor deposits at Kew, judicial records from Yorkshire, and a corpus of regional fiction.

This talk is part of the Graduate Workshop in Economic and Social History series.

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