SP374      Half Unit
Riots, Disorder and Urban Violence

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Tim Newburn (OLD 2.40a)


This course is available on the BSc in International Social and Public Policy, BSc in International Social and Public Policy and Economics, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

This course is only available to third year undergraduate students


Some familiarity with sociology and/or criminology would be an advantage, but is not a formal prerequisite. Anyone unfamiliar with criminology can find a full introduction to the subject in: Newburn, T. (2017) Criminology, London: Routledge, 3rd Edition. An easier, quicker overview can be found in: Newburn, T. (2019) Criminology: A very short introduction,Oxford: OUP

Course content

This course focuses on urban or collective violence, or what more colloquially tend to be referred to as 'riots'. From Hong Kong and Santiago to the Gilets Jaunes in Paris and the uprisings in America after the death of George Floyd and during the Presidential election, this is a subject of great contemporary relevance.

The course will consider the various approaches that have been taken to this subject - via history, psychology and sociology - and, focusing on particular examples, the course will examine some of the core issues in the field including: the causes and consequences of riots; psychological versus sociological explanations; the role of race/ethnicity; the impact of traditional and new social media on the nature and organisation of rioting; the role and changing nature of the policing of urban disorder;  and how riots might be understood both historically and comparatively.


Courses in Social Policy follow the Teaching Model outlined on the following page: https://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/Current-Students/teaching-in-the-department-of-social-policy


All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Michaelmas and/or Lent terms". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person Lectures and In person classes/seminars. Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course.


The course will be delivered in LT

Formative coursework

Students will be required to write and submit one piece of formative coursework for assessment and feedback.

This will be an essay outline - in effect the outline of their summative essay, including a full introductory paragraph. 

Indicative reading

  • Katz, J. (2016) Culture within and culture about crime: The case of the ‘Rodney King riots’, Crime, Media, Culture
  • Moran, M. and Waddington, D. (2015) Recent riots in the UK and France: Causes and commonalities, Contention, 2, 2, 57-73
  • Newburn, T. (2015) The 2011 English riots in recent historical perspective, British Journal of Criminology, 55, 1, 375-392
  • Newburn, T. (2021) The causes and consequences of urban riot and unrest, Annual Review of Criminology, 4, 53-71
  • Reicher, S. D. (1984) The St Pauls’ riot: An explanation of the limits of crowd action in terms of a social identity model, European Journal of Social Psychology, 14, 1-21
  • Waddington, D. (1998) Waddington Versus Waddington: Public Order Theory on Trial, Theoretical Criminology, 2: 373-394

Additional reading:

  • Castells, M. (2015) The Egyptian Revolution, in Goodwin, J. and Jasper, J.M. (eds) The Social Movements Reader, Oxford: Blackwell
  • King, M. and Waddington, D. (2006) Flashpoints revisited: a critical application to the policing of anti-globalization protest, Policing and Society, 15, 3, 255-282
  • Marx, G. (1972) Issueless riots, in Short, J. and Wolfgang, M. (eds) Collective Violence, Chicago: Aldine
  • Newburn, T., Cooper, K., Deacon, R. and Diski, R. (2015) ‘Shopping for Free’? Looting, consumerism and the 2011 riots, British Journal of Criminology, 55 (5): 987-1004
  • Proctor, R., Crump, J., Karstedt, S., Voss, A. and Cantijoch, M. (2013) Reading the riots: what were the police doing on Twitter?, Policing and Society, 23, 4, 413-36
  • Stott, C.  and Drury, C. (2017) Contemporary understanding of riots: Classical crowd psychology, ideology and the social identity approach, Public Understanding of Science, 21, 1, 2-14


Coursework (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

The coursework (100%) will comprise a single summative essay. Students will have considerable input in deciding the precise focus of their individual summative work. 


Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2021/22: 15

Average class size 2021/22: 7

Capped 2021/22: Yes (15)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication