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Ludd, Ned (fl. 1811–1816), mythical machine-breaker, was the name signed by the authors of letters threatening the destruction of knitting frames. Luddism emerged initially in the small villages of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire (the address affixed to some of the letters was Sherwood Forest) and later spread to Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire (where the nom de guerre used was often Enoch). The first incidence of Luddism, according to the Nottingham Review, occurred in December 1811 when a boy apprentice named Ludlam from the village of Anstey, near Leicester, attacked his frame after his master complained of poor work. Framework knitters appealed to a charter granted by Charles II which authorized them to destroy frames that fabricated articles in a deceitful manner, but in a short space of time Luddism became a catch-all term applied to food riots, incendiarism, and political militancy. The assassination of the prime minister, Spencer Perceval, on 11 May 1812 was initially thought to be the work of the Luddites. Many Luddite leaders were executed, but the identity of Ludd remained a mystery. Although local figureheads such as Gravenor Hensen and James (Jem) Towle (in Nottinghamshire) and George Mellor (in Yorkshire) were strongly suspected, no one individual was ever identified as Ludd (or General Ludd), and the letters and threats were issued by divers hands.

Miles Taylor


R. A. Church and S. D. Chapman, ‘Gravener Henson and the making of the English working class’, Land, labour and population in the industrial revolution: essays presented to J. D. Chambers, ed. E. L. Jones and G. E. Mingay (1967), 131–61 · F. O. Darvall, Popular disturbances in Regency England (1934) · J. L. Hammond and B. Hammond, The skilled labourer, 2nd edn (1927); repr. (1979) · F. Peel, The rising of the Luddites (1895) · M. I. Thomis, The Luddites: machine-breaking in Regency England (1970)