Was the French Revolution inevitable?

In the middle of the 18th century, on the north side of the Palais Royal gardens in Paris, there stood a magnificent chestnut tree called the Tree of Cracow. In his presidential address to the American Historical Association in 2000, Robert Darnton explained that the name Cracow probably derived from the heated debates that took place in Paris during the War of the Polish Succession, but also from the French verb craquer: to tell dubious stories. News-mongers or nouvellistes de bouche, agents for foreign diplomats and curious members of the public gathered round the tree, which was at the heart of Paris’s news network, a nerve centre for transmitting information,

The fine art of French rioting

Marseille One of the benefits of holidaying during a riot is you feel remarkably safe. Ruffians have no interest in you while they can be having fun at the expense of a much more exciting foe, the police. And besides, there are Lacoste stores to be raided: they have no time for your wallet. The other major benefit is you can get a table anywhere. We had the best seat in France last week: the first-floor balcony of La Caravelle, an old-school bar overlooking Marseille’s historic port and the perfect vantage point for taking in the fine art of French rioting. The choreography unfolded in fits and starts. The police vans

Jonathan Miller

Why Europe riots

Montpellier A spectre is haunting Europe. In France, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and even Switzerland, the rule of law is being challenged by the rule of gangs. Disaffected young people cut off from society feel nothing but nihilistic contempt for it. Higher temperatures and social media are creating a heated summer. Judging from recent events in Paris and Stockholm, this year could be the worst so far. The rise of gang violence is associated with immigration. Europe has shown itself incapable or unwilling to control the influx of migrants, some of them genuine asylum seekers, others simply opportunists. Nor have European politicians succeeded in dealing with the problems created by immigration,

Douglas Murray

French racism is not the problem

Last week we learned that a woman in a park in Skegness was dragged into the bushes and raped by a 33-year-old male. The man had arrived in the UK illegally on a small boat just 40 days earlier. If you have open borders and no checks on who is arriving, an uptick in crime will inevitably occur Strangely, I can find little anger about this. The story was reported in a couple of papers but there were no fulminating editorials or emergency questions in the House. Jess Phillips hasn’t found room to grandstand about it. Nor have Yvette Cooper, Stella Creasy or any of those other Labour MPs who

The French riots threaten the state’s very existence

How dangerous are riots to the very existence of the French state? Most commentators avoid the question and concentrate on causes. The more whimsical attribute cause to that clichéd French historical reflex of insurrection; the sociologists to poverty and discrimination in the banlieues (suburbs); the far-left to French institutional racism and right-wing policies; conservative politicians to excess immigration, the ghettoization of France and the state’s retreat from enforcing law and order. But a growing chorus now evokes an unmentionable potential consequence: civil war. Of most concern is that those voices include groups with first-hand knowledge of the state of the country: the police, the army, domestic intelligence. On Friday, following three days

The real reasons for South Africa’s riots

Sixty-eight years ago, when I was four, my Scottish father and English mother took me from London to South Africa, to a seaside town 20 miles south of Cape Town in the Western Cape. This is Fish Hoek (pronounced ‘fishhook’). I was brought up here, and after working in England and elsewhere in South Africa, I have returned. I have lived through the rise and fall of apartheid, and the 27-year rule of the ANC. I watched the terrible recent events, which seem to have subsided. We are sifting through the ruins and wondering what happened, and why. South Africa has nine provinces. Two of them, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN, formerly Natal)

What’s behind the South African riots?

South Africa is ablaze once more. In the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal (formerly Natal) and Gauteng (which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria), the cities are burning. Shops and businesses have been turned to ashes; trucks are on fire; mobs of excited young men are smashing and looting; a Durban ambulance, trying to take a critically ill patient to hospital, was attacked; in the middle of a crippling Covid-19 lockdown, pharmacies have been plundered and vaccination sites have been suspended; motorways have been closed; over 70 people have been killed. The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has called out the army. These rioting young men lead wretched lives, mainly because of the ANC

America’s immune system is failing

‘This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,’ said President Donald Trump in his inauguration speech on January 20, 2017. Three and a half years later, in the early summer of 2020, a bout of heavy riots has broken out, like a virus spreading, in cities across America. Minneapolis rioted for days on end. Other cities erupted: in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, New York and Washington. A mob now menaces the White House. Maybe that American carnage is just beginning. This latest unrest, coming as it does in the middle of an ongoing global health crisis and a concomitant economic recession, feels more devastating

Paris’s banlieues are burning once again

One of the persistent misconceptions of the riots that swept through France in the autumn of 2005 is that they were solely the result of the deaths of two youths as they ran from the police. The deaths of the teenagers on October 27 in Clichy-Montfermeil provoked unrest in the north-eastern Parisian suburb but it was what happened three days later that led to three weeks of nationwide riots and the declaration of a state of emergency by the then president of France, Jacques Chirac. According to Gilles Kepel in his 2015 book, Terror in France: genesis of the French Jihad, it was a stray tear gas grenade fired by