Is civil unrest a Summer thing?

Do the events in London suggest that Summer is a time for being on the streets?

As someone who looks at history to try and understand the present I was wondering whether the riots in our cities is a new phenomenon or whether it is something that often happens in the Summer.

Historically, it has always been assumed that wars took place in the summer months because of the capacity of infantry to cross ground was much enhanced. Generals leading wars in winter were often defeated as much by the elements as they were by their opponents; the invasions of Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany into Russia for example.

But, it seems that civil unrest is also a summer activity. Today, 10th August, is the anniversary of the less well-known storming of the Tuileries Palace in 1792, which ultimately ended the Bourbon monarchy. Interestingly, it was also the date which news of the American Declaration of Independence was received in London having taken place on 4th July 1776. (I’m sure George III would have benefited from 24-hour news cycles). The 7th August saw race riots in Lansing Michigan. The 8th August was the date of the 8888 Uprising in Burma, 9th August Gandhi was arrested in 1942 for the Quit India Movement.

But, the fact remains that civil unrest appears to be, if not primarily, a summer activity. If this is the case then we need to identify what the differences are between the lives of those perpetarting acts of violence and looting now, and why they were not occurring a few weeks ago. There has not been  sudden change in living standards or political complextion of the nation in this period.

With the age of the people involved in the present events one has to speculate if this is a new school holiday activity. Without educational occupation, or something similar, the lust for the latest accessory or the desire for wanton violence appears to be unchecked from the peer pressure or the external influence of those involved.

Without parental involvement, due to the necessity to work, or the involvement of education the summer months may increasingly become less silly season and more a season of madness.

(I ought to add, to avoid confusion or misinterpretation, that I am in no way suggesting that the events in England at the moment can be compared to the civil unrest surrounding events in India or Burma where people were trying to throw off either Imperial Britain or a military dictator – both were acts of civil political uprising rather than theft and destruction. I am merely indicating that Summer is a season that seems to afford people greater capacity to engage in outdoor activities.)

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1 Comment

  1. James

     /  August 10, 2011

    1981 Brixton riots took place in April (though further rioting took place more widely in July that year in many of the same places affected by the violence of the last few days) – some similarities with black youth issues, police tension etc but of course nothing on the scale and behaviour of looting and pilaging that we have seen. We need another Scarman type report for the establishment to wake up to what’s happening in our inner communities.


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