The Most British Reasons Riots Have Started In History

If you’re going to start a violent uprising, you’d better have a damn good reason for it. Like these.

1. Somene trying to take away your gin

When the government tried to effectively stop the sale of gin in the 1736, by imposing ridiculously high taxes and license fees on its sale, Brits weren’t terribly happy. They liked gin. Really, really liked it; on average, Brits were drinking over 2 gallons of gin per person every year. The resentment fermented for several years, with a series of violent riots breaking out in 1743 - fueled, of course, by low-quality, illegal gin.

2. Being frightened by an unexpected hat

When John Hetherington - a haberdasher who was a top hat early adopter - showed off his new headgear by wearing it on the streets of London, it is said to have caused such shock and alarm that it started a riot in which a child’s arm was broken. Hetherington was reportedly prosecuted for a hat-based breach of the peace, on the grounds that the shiny silk design was ‘calculated to frighten timid people’.

3. Sandwiches

In Lincoln Prison Riot of 2002, inmates overpowered the guards and seized control of the jail for eight hours - looting, attacking other prisoners, wrecking the premises and even attempting to blow open doors using oxygen cylinders. The mutiny left one person dead from a drug overdose, 35 people in need of hospital treatment, and caused almost £3 million worth of damage.

The cause of the riot was that hot meals had been replaced with sandwiches on the prison lunch menu.

4. Getting into a dispute about whether you paid for your wig

The Boston Massacre of 1770 - in which five members of an angry mob were shot dead by British troops, fuelling a mood of insurrection that a few years and one regrettable incident with tea later would culminate in the American Revolution - was sparked by an argument over whether a British soldier had paid his wig-maker’s bill. Americans, please note: he had, in fact, paid the bill. A British officer always pays his wig-maker.

5. Oxford University students acting like dicks

Violent clashes broke out in Oxford on February 10, 1355 between university scholars and residents of the town, sparked by two university students complaining about the quality of wine in a local tavern. It is reported that that ‘saucy’ words were exchanged, and the students then threw their wine over the barman. When the mayor of Oxford tried to have the students arrested, two hundred other students came out to support them, and the mayor was assaulted.

Over 90 people died in the ensuing three days of armed conflict.

6. Being angry about how much theatre tickets cost

In 1809, the Covent Garden Theatre reopened after being rebuilt following a fire - but the cost of the tickets had gone up by between 10% and 20%, and some public areas had been converted into private boxes. Theatre-goers were so outraged by the price rise that they started a ongoing series of riots (that became known as the ‘Old Price Riots’) which lasted for almost three months, before the theatre owner was eventually forced to back down.

7. …or the systematic oppression of the working class by a moneyed elite

Or football.

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