to create a new society. To say the contrary is to bring 'ideological commitment' into history. This has obvious dangers, as has the use of ill-defined sociological concepts in relation to the English working class. Clearly the historian's duty is to 'say what he means and to communicate his thought in intelligible language'. No one could deny that Dr. Thomis writes in a lucid and intelligible fashion. His book is close to the sources, and inevitably he gives much weight to the reports of 'moderate' men such as the 'healthily sceptical' General Maitland. This considered use of a mass of confusing material and a thorough knowledge of the Luddite regions are the hallmarks of Dr. Thomis's work. The picture of Luddism which emerges is both anti- and pre-Thompson. The Luddites, the 'lowest orders' of the com- munity, are given less colour and character, but their numbers and activities are painstakingly recorded. The movement is shown to be less widespread, particularly in Lancashire, than has been suggested. This may account for the apparent nonchalance of the government, although Dr. Thomis does not satisfactorily explain why 12,000 soldiers were sent to Luddite areas. The roots of the movement were varied. Machinery was not hated, except in special circumstances; low wages were more important. After a brief initial success Luddism acquired a momentum of its own, and in the process it triggered off a 'crime explosion' in certain counties. In the later stages of the movement (1811-16) the use of 'professional toughs' and the stealing of arms became fairly common. To some extent this new militancy was a reaction to the brutality of the authorities and the troops, but it was not part of a general Luddite plot to overthrow the government. The nature of the Luddite organization reinforces this picture of a many-sided, dynamic and fragmented movement. There was no central figure-though Gravener Henson is not entirely dismissed as a possible candidate-and no central body. The sending of delegates from region to region and the swearing of oaths, which E. P. Thompson regards as evidence of an integrated and possibly revolutionary movement, were no more than peripheral activities. Luddism was essentially a local matter; its natural home was the isolated village. 'It might have happened that "the Luddites of different districts reached out to each other" (E.P.T.), but this they did spiritually; it is not possible to show that they did so physically, and it is even possible for someone "who knows the geography of the Midlands and the North" (E.P.T.) to believe that Nottinghamshire, or at least, the Midlands Luddites were essentially a self-contained body of people who neither had, nor needed, contact with those in the North' (p. 125). Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the book are the relationship between Luddism and trade unionism, and the sympathy which the former evoked from sections of the middle class. In Lancashire and
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