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Faculty of Economics

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Aidt, T. S. and Leon, G.

The Interaction of Structural Factors and Diffusion in Social Unrest: Evidence from the Swing Riots

British Journal of Political Science

Vol. 52(2) pp. 869-885 (2022)

Abstract: Studies of the causes of social unrest typically focus on structural factors or diffusion. This article demonstrates the importance of considering their interaction and reveals a complex interplay between the two. This interaction is examined in the context of the English Swing riots of 1830–1831, in which it is possible to observe the structural factors relevant to each specific incident; this is often impossible when analyzing more recent cases of unrest. The authors find that the riots were triggered by economic factors and that diffusion more than tripled the direct effect of changes in local factors. Economic factors and the presence of potential riot leaders made an area more susceptible to the incoming diffusion of riots. The ways in which structural factors and diffusion interact is relevant to both historical and recent instances of social unrest.

Keywords: Riots, structural factors, contagion, diffusion, conflict, Captain Swing

JEL Codes: D72, D74, O16

Author links: Toke Aidt  

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