Ned Ludd and Laboring-Class Autobiography
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Ned Ludd and Laboring-Class Autobiography book
This chapter is an experiment in understanding the life of the Luddite movement through the words written by those participating in it, laborers in the framework knitting trade who adopted a common identity through the pseudonym, later eponym, 'Ned Ludd'. The Luddite writers did not intend to produce an autobiography of Ned Ludd when they began to write threatening letters, proclamations, verses, and satires in protest against the wage, hiring, and manufacturing practices in the framework knitting trade. Treating Luddite writing as laboring-class autobiography requires a suspension of assumptions about autobiography, and the most important assumption that must be suspended is the existence of a framework knitter named Ned Ludd. Laboring-class autobiographies were rare but not absent during the Romantic period, and a survey of their range provides a background for understanding how Luddite texts might be read autobiographically. The academic study of laboring-class autobiography began among social historians, particularly Burnett and Vincent.