Letter from Ned Ludd to the Mythicists

Letter from Ned Ludd to the Mythicists April 23, 2012

This important historical document seems to me to be relevant to something mythicists often say, and so I thought I would share it…

Dear mythicists,

I, Ned Ludd, am writing to request that you kindly stop using my name as though it provided support for your nonsensical ideas. If you don’t, I expect that I really shall have no choice but to smash up your machinery.

Historians differ on exactly who I was. Some think that I was a simpleton who smashed some machinery in a fit of passion, and that the phrase “Ned Ludd did it” and the name for the supposed leader of the Luddite movement came from there. Others think that “Ned Ludd” is simply a pseudonym that was used in the writing of threatening letters to employers, not based on another earlier figure. In either case, there was a Ned Ludd, and/or one or more people who wrote letters using aliases which included Ned Ludd. The historical question is which historical people may or may not have borne that name, whether it was their real name, and what their relationship is if any to the Luddite movement that eventually appealed to me as their fictional/mythical leader.

But I should think it obvious that, whichever of the aforementioned scenarios was the case, the evidence regarding me ought not to lead anyone in their right mind to conclude that the Luddites thought that I was a celestial entity who existed solely in a heavenly realm, or that I was created based on astrological prototypes, or that Greek or Ancient Near Eastern myths about dying, rising, and machine-smashing gods had anything to do with it. That I ended up as a mythical figure doesn’t prove that I began as one. Just ask the historians. They’ll tell you.

So please stop making yourselves look foolish by appealing to me in support of mythicism. If anything, I support historicism better. If a relatively ordinary human individual who smashed machines later had his name taken up as a symbol of a movement that went beyond anything that he intended or could have foreseen, doesn’t that sound a lot like what many historians say about the relationship between the historical Jesus and Christianity? The fact that the Ned Ludd who became the centerpiece of the Luddite movement deserves to be called fictional does not prove that there was no historical figure by that name who was actually in the minds of those who started the later movement, any more or any less than in the case of the fictionalized and mythologized Jesus who became a supernatural figure at the center of Christianity and its doctrines.

And so, while I have no objection to your dragging your own reputations through the mud, I find the aspersions you cast on my historicity objectionable, and kindly ask that you desist, if you know what’s good for you.

Sincerely,

Ned Ludd

General of the Army of Redressers of Mythicist Claims

 

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