Readings in Social History

Riot, Rebellion and Revolution: Popular Discontent and the British Empire

History 3xx.01, Xxx Carr Building, Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00-11:15
Instructor: Robert Penner, xxx CarrBuilding, 555-5555,

On hearing of the fall of the Bastille in 1789 Louis XVI is said to have declared, “But this is a revolt!” To which the Duke de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt famously responded, “No sire, it is a revolution.” That disagreement of opinion over the historical significance of crowd behavior is a particularly pithy articulation of the problem that lies at the heart of this course. The differences between the riotous, the rebellious, and the revolutionary may ultimately be little more than differences of perspective, but that has not stopped countless historians from trying to prove otherwise.

Over the next thirteen weeks we will be studying how some such historians have tried to make sense of the relationship between popular discontent and the state. Our primary focus will be on modern British history, both in the archipelago and across the empire, and a secondary concern will be the ideological consequences of historiographical choices.


Film and Reading Response :
At the beginning of the second class you will hand in a 5-7 page reflection on how our readings can help us think about the scenes presented to us in The Battle of Algiers.

Seminar Presentation:
Each class a student will provide a historiographical backdrop for the book we will be discussing that day. The student will identify key debates and arguments in the field, point to the interventions into those controversies which the historian under discussion is making, and raise a handful of questions for us to address.

The purpose of this course is, ideally, to help you think about your own research. The research paper is an opportunity for you to explore how the themes raised in our readings and discussions intersect in your own work. By the end of the first section you should have met with me to discuss potential paper topics.

Section Reviews:
A brief review (5-6 pages) of our readings and discussions is due a week after the last class of each section. Each one is worth 5%.

Class Outline and Weekly Readings


Week 1: Representing the Crowd

  • The Battle of Algiers

Week 2: Explaining the Crowd

  • Cole, Juan R.I. “Of Crowds and Empires: Afro-Asian Riots and European Expansion, 1857-1882,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 31, No. 2, (Jan, 1989): 106-133
  • Holton, Robert J. “The Crowd in History: Some Problems of Theory and Method,”
  • Social History , Vol. 3, No. 2 (May, 1978): 219-233
  • Marx, Gary T., “Issueless Riots,” Annals of the AmericanAcademy of Political and Social Science , Vol. 391, Collective Violence (Sep., 1970): 21-33
  • Thompson, E.P. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Nineteenth Century” Past & Present, 50, (Feb., 1971): 76-136

Section I: Atlantic Britain

3: Popular Politics

  • Wood, Andy. Riot, Rebellion and Popular Politics in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2001)

4: The Civil War

  • Hill, Christopher. The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin, 1991)

5: Jacobite Rebellion

  • Plank, Geoffrey. Rebellion and Savagery: The Jacobite Rising of 1745 and the British Empire (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005)

6: Ireland

  • Canny, Nicholas, Making Ireland British 1580-1650, (OxfordUniversity Press, 2001)

Section II: Imperial Britain

7: Britain in the Age of Revolutions

  • Royle, Edward. Revolutionary Britannia?: Reflections on the Threat of Revolution in Britain, 1789-1848 (ManchesterUniversity Press, 2000)

8: Unrest at Home

  • Hobsbawm, Eric J. and George F. E. Rudé. Captain Swing (Pantheon, 1968)

9: Unrest Abroad

  • Chakravarty, Gautam. The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination (CambridgeUniversity Press, 2005)

10: Unrest at Home and Abroad

  • Thomas Holt The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 ( JHU Press: 1992)

Section III: Post-Colonial Britain

11: Race and Empire

  • Rich, Paul. Race and Empire in British Politics (CUP Archive, 1990)

12: What is a Race Riot?

  • Selections from Edward Pilkington, Beyond the Mother Country: West Indians and the Notting Hill White Riots (1988)
  • Bagguley, Paul and Yasmin Hussein, “Citizenship, Ethnicity and Identity: British Pakistanis after the 2001 ‘Riots,’” Sociology, Vol. 39, No. 3, (2005): 407-425
  • Van Dijk, Teun A. “Race, Riots and the Press: An Analysis of Editorials in the British Press about the 1985 Disorders,” International Communication Gazette, Vol. 43, No. 3, (1989): 229-253
  • Miles, Robert. 'The Riots of 1958: Notes on the Ideological Construction of "Race Relations" as a Political Issue in Britain', Immigrants and Minorities III (1984): 252-75
  • Panayi, Panikos. “Middlesbrough 1961: A British Race Riot of the 1960s?” Social History, Vol. 16, No. 2 (May, 1991): 139-153

13: Hooliganism

  • Buford, Bill . Among the Thugs: Face to Face with English Football Violence (Arrow Books, 2001)
  • Anthony King “The Postmodernity of Football Hooliganism,” The British Journal of Sociology , Vol. 48, No. 4 (Dec., 1997): 576-593