When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to review this book, he replied: “Luddites? You mean, the Flat Earthers?” There is a distinction, I reminded him, between science and technology, and the Luddites had no problem, qua Luddites, with modern science. They objected to a few machines that were ruining their lives as artisans in the English textile industry. I could have added that Jeffrey Burton Russell's book Inventing the Flat Earth demonstrates that, “with extraordinarily few exceptions, no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century BC onward believed that the Earth was flat” and that even the belief that people had believed the Earth was flat did not arise until around 1870, in a time of controversy between scientists and the general culture over the theory of evolution. My friend is not a historian or scientist (but then neither am I),...
Writings of the Luddites
Jeffrey M. Perl is the founder and editor of Common Knowledge. His books include Skepticism and Modern Enmity: Before and after Eliot; The Tradition of Return: The Implicit History of Modern Literature; and (as editor) Peace and Mind: Civilian Scholarship from “Common Knowledge.” He taught for many years at Columbia University and at the University of Texas and is currently professor emeritus of English Literature at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and a member, at Durham University in England, of the Center for Humanities Innovation.
Jeffrey M. Perl; Writings of the Luddites. Common Knowledge 1 August 2021; 27 (3): 484–485. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-9268263
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