“It was the time when the country was called the “Bread Basket” for it’s vast production of wheat and even supplied bread to the whole world during the world wars. As usual every good action has side effects too! And this one’s effect was huge and devastating.”

If you are wondering that you have heard these words somewhere before, yes then you are a part of our ploy family from a very long time, if you don’t remember don’t worry, you can check out the following link to know a bit about what we are going to talk about today:

Today’s story is a continuation or in fact a derivation / connection of dots from the above story, so it officially becomes our first sequel!

So who is this captain swing? What did he do? How does this become story becomes a sequel or how is this story so important even? To start with, no one knows who he is or if someone by that name actually exists ! But this name lead to the most powerful and famous struggle or movement of agricultural laborers across the world, fascinating isn’t it! Yes, it was the time when farmers across the continent started growing excess of wheat, in amounts far beyond one could even imagine, as already said, the country was called the “Wheat Basket” which ultimately lead to a natural disaster ( the dust storms- “dust bowl”). But at the same time there was an issue of unemployment also, as people returned from war, there was excess labor available, so much that their salaries reduced to less than quarter of what was before.

It was the time of growing agricultural capitalism, and increasing food consumption kept up the demands, but huge number of jobless agricultural labors reduced their income and had to go through very harsh situations, some even starved to find a livelihood ( something that is currently happening with Indian farmers, but not due to excess labor alone!) This was due to the large number of soldiers returning home after the war, and we know most of them used to be peasants, so when they came back they knew only to fight in wars or plough the field, but all the common lands that used to be the only ray of hope to the poor peasants were now gone, and rich farmers and landlords started using heavy mechanized systems to do the work these human labors could do in less time. All this meant poverty, unemployment and starving, ultimately leading to reforms, struggles and riots. That’s what happened here too! But every struggle needs a leader, a person to guide them , a captain right, who was that in this case?

They were lead by a mythical figure, he was called as “Captain Swing”, hence the riot was known as the Swing riot, it took place during the 1830s. There was no one by this name- living or dead, in fact there was not even a folklore or any literature talking about this Cap, it was just a “name” that led thousands and thousands of such badly affected agricultural labors and poor farmer against their oppressors.

They all rose up to destroy threshing machines in England and this started spreading to other countries across the world like a forest fire. Every country gave a unique look and a flashback heroism story to this mythical character, but the name was never changed. It became a symbol just like “Robin Hood” . During these riots, the no of people who gathered was around 25 to 1000 sometimes.Warning letters were written to the farmers to destroy their threshing machines. To quote a few famous ones:

“We don’t want to do any mischief, but we want that poor children when they go to bed should have a belly full of taties instead of crying with half a belly full.”

“This is to acquaint you that if your threshing machines are not destroyed by you directly, we shall commence our labors. Signed on behalf of the whole. Swing.”

“Revenge for thee is on the wing, from thy determined Captain Swing”

Attacks were only on rich farmers who could afford threshing machines, which were very expensive at that time. Farmers with less land and the poor ones were left out and they too didn’t respond against the rioters.Most of the time such damaging of machines was just a part of a threat to increase the wages.The movement generated its own momentum and and grew rapidly. Even though he actually didn’t exist but he came to represent the moral fury of the crowds of impoverished, determined laborers.

At the end totally there were 1,976 cases and the courts condemned 252 people to death, of whom 19 were executed (all but 3 for arson), 505 were to be transported to Australia or Tasmania (of whom 481 sailed), 644 were sent to jail, 7 received fines, and 1 was whipped; 800 were acquitted or bound over for trial on lesser crimes. It was and will remain to be one of the biggest struggle by the poor over the rich and wealthy oppressors, just for its display of strength and the way they warned their enemies. But all this was fueled just by a single, again saying just a single name- CAPTAIN SWING ! This is a great example that teaches us how just a thought of unity works on a great level, how even a leaderless movement but with vision can do so much and how one common symbolization of anger ( a small name in this case) can bring out such tremendous changes. Its all about the ideologies, than the leaders themselves.Ending with one of my favorite quote;

“You can assassinate or kill a leader, break their statues, keep them in exile or even erase people’s memories about them, but you can’t do anything to their ideologies, they are eternal!”



“The important thing is not to stop questioning;Curiosity has its own reason for existing” Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness and the future belongs to the curious! This blog is just to solve your hunger of curiosity through a different perspective to every story!

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