The Luddites were an organised group of workers in the textile industry, who destroyed the machinery that was taking their livelihoods. The movement began in 1811 in Nottinghamshire, and quickly spread to Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

The movement was believed to have been founded by Ned Ludd, but he was never identified, and may well be mythical. Some authorities claim his surname to be Ludlam.
The movement was dedicated to destroying machinery, not people

Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, instigated severe measures, culminating in a mass trial at York in 1813. This resulted in executions and transportations against the Luddites

The Luddite Myth

The word 'luddite' has come to be used to describe a mindless opposition to change, particularly technological change. However, this is something of a myth. There is no record, for example, of them opposing the new canal in Marsden, nor of any threat to the Taylors' workshop, which made the new machines.

All the violence was against machines in mills, and there appears to have been an element of radical, even revolutionary, political thought in the movement. To lose one's livelihood would mean poverty and starvation, smashing machines carried the death penalty, and trade union activities were illegal. With this in mind, the luddite response seems neither mindless nor unfocussed.