The Social Dynamics of Riots: Evidence from the Captain Swing Riots, 1830-31

Wednesday 11 October 2017, 1.00PM to 2.00pm

Speaker(s): Gabriel Leon (Kings)

Abstract:  Social unrest and protests often erupt suddenly and diffuse quickly. What drives people to overcome the collective action problem and join a riot or a protest, turning what is initially a small event into a widespread movement? We address this question by examining the Swing riots of 1830-31. By exploiting the time and spatial variation in exposure to riots induced by the communication constraints of the early 1830s, we can estimate the role of contagion in the spread of the riots. We find that local (rather than national) sources of information were central in driving contagion, and that contagion magnified the impact that social and economic fundamentals had on riots by a factor of 2.65. Our historical data allows us to overcome a number of econometric challenges, but the Swing riots are also of independent interest because they led to the passage of the Great Reform Act of 1832, a key step in Britain's institutional development.

Location: ARRC Auditorium (A/RC014)

Admission: All welcome