In the 19th century, English textile workers, known as the Luddites, protested the labor-saving machines that had been introduced into factories, enabling the hiring of less-skilled, lower-wage laborers, leaving them unemployed. No one is completely sure of the origin of the name Luddite, but it’s generally believed to be after Ned Ludd, a young man who in 1781, allegedly smashed two stocking frames in the factory in which he worked. Rather than being anti-technology, as is commonly believed today, the Luddites were really protesting chronic underemployment and exploitation of workers by the capitalists who controlled the factories.
In Framed: A Historical Novel about the Revolt of the Luddites, Christy Fearn gives us a look at the so-called Luddite revolution through the eyes of one family. Facing the possibility of unemployment because of the introduction of new machinery, they decide to take matters into their own hands – and the smashing begins. Fearn does a good job of showing how individuals might have reacted to the chaotic economic conditions of the time. She has her textile workers using French on occasion, and while I can’t say this would have been the case in 1811, it comes across as credible, given the way she describes them. There is also a lot in Framed about clashes between the militia and the rebels; again, showing the human side of it. After all, most of the soldiers came from the same socio-economic background.
A novel of action and suspense, of manners, and of great psychological depth, that goes beneath the surface of setting and characters, revealing what lies beneath. If you like historical fiction that rings true, you’ll like reading Framed.