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hooliganism

hooliganism is public behaviour, usually by a group of young men, which the supporters of law and order find threatening and disruptive. The term came into use at the end of the 19th cent. when a gang in south-east London, allegedly drawn from Irish immigrants, destroyed much property. Their conduct made no explicit political and social point, which was in some ways more disturbing.

Such rowdy, ruffianly, and apparently motiveless violence has a much longer history than the term hooligan. In Pepys's day, gangs of youths, known successively as Hectors, Scourers, and Mohawks, roamed the streets, leering at young ladies and pushing old gentlemen. In 1838 the younger members of the hunting fraternity at Melton Mowbray, a quiet provincial town, ‘painted the town red’. Public concern at this behaviour spurts up at intervals. In the 1950s there was considerable anxiety about Teddy Boys, though they were in fact little inclined to violence, which would ruin their clothes and disturb their hair styles. They were replaced in the 1960s by Mods and Rockers, who ‘beat up’ seaside towns on their motor-cycles. Attention then moved to sporting events. Gangs of teenagers at soccer matches, or on their way to and from events, threw missiles, fought running battles with rival supporters, relieved themselves in front gardens, and became a source of considerable irritation to football clubs, the police, and owners of property near football grounds. The phenomenon became sufficiently disturbing during the 1970s to attract research into the causes of such behaviour and the means of effective control. It is not likely that the phenomenon will be totally eradicated in the 21st cent., and may perhaps be regarded as the price society pays for not sending its young men to be killed every thirty years.

Ian John Ernest Keil; and Professor J. A. Cannon

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