Luddites smashing a factory loomI often wonder what life would be like if the Luddites hadn’t failed in their attempt to humanise progress. But unfortunately they couldn’t win. For starters they weren’t an actual organised entity, just a collection of individuals who stood to loose most from, what was later termed, the Industrial Revolution. They were up against those with the capital, the British government, (predominately the same people), the British Army and the Police Force. Even so it took hastily drafted draconian laws, quite a few hangings and a lot of violence to quell them.commuters

We are living with their defeat today. It’s why we travel in peak hour droves to a place of work where we exchange large slabs of our lives for money.

Before the industrial revolution there was an organic economy based on land, labour and local exchange.

Weaver at his loom (re-enactment)The weavers of the north of England were largely one-person home businesses. Apart from producing woven goods, often with the involvement of his family, the weaver also had a small self-sufficient family vegetable garden.

Because of the quality and the demand for his manufactured goods, he was always assured that everything he produced would be sold at a constant price. He and his family had abundance, stability and unrestrained social interaction.

Then along came more advanced technology which allowed the manufacture of goods, although inferior in quality, independent of nature, of geography and season and weather, of sun or wind or water or human and animal power. It produced an economy based upon fuel, factory and foreign trade. Humans became a minor consideration in the manufacture of goods and were now serving the machine.
It was this uncontrolled empowerment of the machine in human society that the Luddites fought against.

The people who formed the Luddite movement were mainly weavers or similar craftsmen. They had the most to loose. They fought for and lost their idyllic cottage industry lifestyle of stability and self-reliance. The very quality of life that a lot of us yearn for today.A factory
The combined power of weaving machines, the steam engine, the laws of enclosure that enabled industrialists to fence off farming land and build factories, put an end to the weavers way of life. Whereas before the factories, agreed customary prices and therefore income were stable, the new technology brought with it a free market economy, which drove prices and wages down along with the quality of the product.

Life for the displaced farmers and weavers forced into the urban factories had become grim. Working for long hours in dangerous conditions with no days off for very low pay, men, women and children spent their lives either working or sleeping. Several families would have to share one house to save on rent. Humans had become a disposable adjunct to the machine. This is what the Luddites and those before them were against.

History is written by the victors, who were obviously not the Luddites, which is how the word has come to be used to mean a stupid person who doesn’t understand and is opposed to advances in technology. They were in fact very perceptive. They could see what was going to happen to humanity.
And they were right. Despite their valiant opposition we now have a collective mindset that says we must have a JOB and go to WORK for some one else.

It is now taken for granted that production and technological progress is more important than being human.
There was a brief time, with the advent of computers, that we all entertained the idea that computers would handle the more mundane tasks of modern life such that the working week would be reduced to three or four days, maybe less. It’s what the Luddites would have supported. Didn’t happen. The increased capacity that computers gave us was simply used to produce more, not improve humanity. The amount of time many office workers spend away from home at a JOB has actually increased.

Interestingly a totally unplanned result of computer technology has given us all a chance to recreate the weaver’s lifestyle.

I’m referring to the internet.

There Cottage industry at workare those that have replaced the loom with the computer and yarn with broadband. They have offices in their homes where they can interact with their families, live in a country environment where they can grow vegetables and keep chickens should they choose. As for products they range from selling information to buying and selling on e-bay, trading in stocks and shares to advertising.
Thanks to appropriate technology, we have the opportunity to conduct business whilst packing the kids off to school, planting the spinach, feeding the chickens and maybe an afternoon delight between Google-ads!
Used this way the computer can give us more free time and at last live up to it’s promise.

It’s not much but I know that the mythical Ned Ludd would approve.

One of the key components of the pre-industrial revolution cottage industry was the merchant. He was the entrepreneur. He would travel from artisan to artisan supplying raw materials and collecting the finished produce that he would then on sell.

Today, using the same model, the weaver would also become the entrepreneur. He or she would buy raw materials over the internet and sell the finished article the same way. No need to travel town to town. The weaver and family could live anywhere they like as long as they have access to the ‘net. This principle can be extended to a whole range of services and industries.

Of course, the new entrepreneur needs to be able to access the billions of potential customers that are waiting all around the world. This requires an ability to attract people (traffic) to your website. One of the best ways to do this that I know of can be accessed through the ad in the top left hand corner oFamily chickenf this page.

So, and ironically through the use of modern technology, the Luddites dream of sustainable cottage industries is re-born.

You’ll have to excuse me now, I’ve just got to go and see what arrived in the bank account today and collect some eggs. Might dig some potatoes as well. Where’s that garden fork?

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6 Responses to “The New Cottage Industry”
  1. Walter Reade (from Wisconsin) says:

    This is my first time over to the blog. Great article. Well written! Don’t hear much about the Luddites these days. 🙂

  2. Wizzer says:

    I like the angle you’ve created with this post. Interestingly I think the whole UK education system has also grown to support the “system” that the authorities created. I teach children to fit in with the system of mass movement of people to and from work at 9 & 5.

    Teach them to think in that way during their formative years and you retain control.

    More importantly from a governmental viewpoint you can then keep a closer check of tax collection. Have millions of home based workers and the “system” needs recreating.

    I’m all for it – although I prefer someone else to do the farming!

  3. Mark Justice says:

    I guess I had never really seen the Industrial Revolution portrayed in this way. Certainly the “Get out of school and get a job” mentality exists. I know I go to work every day and then come home to my computer and do MY work, hoping to get out of the rat-race. However, I don’t see many people doing the same thing. Most of them use the computer as a toy and just rely on their pay check from work. Their must be something bigger in life!

  4. Hi Wizzer,
    Thank you for your comment. That is a very good point you make. I would go further and suggest that the UK education system was initiated in the first place to provide better educated ‘factory fodder’ and really has never deviated from that. The whole point of learning ‘reading, riting & rithmatic’ is to prepare students for a job, years of serving ‘the machine’ and retirement.
    The tax collection point is a valid one and another reason why governments would want to keep things as they are. Let’s hope they have a real problem in the future as more and more internet cottage industries spring up.

    I rather like growing vegetables and collecting eggs.

  5. Hi Mark,
    Thank you for your comment,
    I’m hopeful that a combination of the current economic downturn and the baby boomers reaching retirement age, (my thoughts here), will create a surge of people overthrowing the current mentality.

    There is most certainly something bigger in life!


  6. Wall Hooks  says:

    home businesses are great coz you can manage them in the comforts of your own home and it is not very tiring*~`

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