Mad mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots

This year's riots were not simply the result of mindless criminality, according to psychologists expert in crowd psychology and the policing of riots.

In one of the first substantial analyses of August’s events, Professor Steve Reicher and Dr Clifford Stott suggest there was much more to the riots than an irrational mob mentality. They argue that to characterise them in this way stores up serious problems for the future.

Rather than mad mobs, gangs or pure criminality, they highlight grievance, and lack of opportunity, shared identity or empowerment as the central factors that must be addressed if we are to prevent similar outbreaks.

In their ebook Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Reicher and Stott present an evidence-based evaluation of the 2011 riots. They draw together authoritative academic research with detailed analysis of live reports from the frontline, cutting through political and media speculation to provide a comprehensive analysis of the events and their causes.

Claudia Hammond, the psychologist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind describes the book as "Excellent and important ... this fascinating account ... challenges the widespread dismissal of the riots as 'criminality pure and simple' ...  compelling evidence for an alternative view of what really caused the uprisings."

While, Superintendent Roger Evans, a former Deputy Commander of the Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group, says:

"This reasoned and intelligent approach is in stark contrast to the moral panics apparent in Westminster and the media in the immediate aftermath of the riots. They have endeavoured to present a carefully researched document that seeks to understand such events and find workable strategies to prevent future occurrences and should be congratulated."

Professor Steve Reicher is Professor of Social Psychology at St Andrews University and Dr Clifford Stott is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Liverpool.

Professor Reicher contributed to the October issue of The Psychologist which covered the psychology of the riots in detail.

Photo credit: Ben Borley

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