Friday, August 12, 2011

Parallel passages: English riots edition

Glen Newey, "To Hell in a Looted Shopping Trolley":
The weather here this week has been typical of the Scottish summer. No one feels like rioting when it’s pissing down with rain.

Lewis Namier famously described 18th-century British politics as ‘aristocracy tempered by rioting’. In fact riots often combine the form of radical protest with reactionary content. The Gordon Riots that erupted in the early summer of 1780 after the partial repeal of the 1698 Popery Act led to an orgy of looting not of moveable property, but of gin (though that isn’t where the name comes from). The riots drew on long-simmering resentment against excise duties on liquor. Horace Walpole remarked that more people had been killed by drink than by musket-ball, as the mob rifled gin-palaces for free booze; at one point a fire in the Fleet was unwittingly fuelled when it was doused with gin instead of water. One of the rioters’ targets was the old Clink prison. That was part of the medieval ‘manor’ or liberty of Southwark, an area so free of city jurisdiction that the bishop, whose manor it was, used it to run bear-baiting shows and a brothel.

Jon Day, "In Hackney":

A young woman with a red bandana tied round her head carried a green recycling box filled with bottles to throw. ... A man carrying a charred rocking horse ran up and clowned around for the phalanx of photographers and cameramen that stood between the riot police and a large group of teenagers. ... Someone threw a Molotov cocktail, but it went out in flight. An off-licence was broken into and people formed a reasonably orderly queue, emerging with bottles of spirits, cartons of cigarettes and boxes of lottery scratch cards, which they smashed open on the curb.
(Both from the LRB Blog, which has a great deal of excellent coverage.) Perhaps it is inappropriate to blog about this issue in a purely frivolous way, but I have read virtually no interesting analysis, & have little to say other than what is obviously implied by my general political outlook.

Unrelated link -- or related only through the non-etymology of Gordon's! -- a list of words for which the first OED quotation is from 1925: incl. arachnophobia, chewy, Comintern, cuppa, electron volt, enhat (i.e. provide with a hat), Kleenex, Leica, knitwear, makeover, neurosurgeon, nudnik, oncologist, paraphilia, recycle, shamus, sousaphone, superstar, Tootsie roll, Trotskyism, and zipper.

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