Tensions between university students and the locals of Oxford had been building for some time before violence broke out. The townspeople were frustrated with the University’s privileges, while students felt that local businesses exploited them by charging higher prices for rents, goods, and services.
On 10 February 1355 a group of students were drinking in the central Swindlestock Tavern. When they complained to the landlord about the quality of the drinks he had brought them, he responded with ‘stubborn and saucy language’ which prompted the two sides to exchange ‘snappish words’. One of the students, who may have been either Walter Spryngeheuse or Roger de Chesterfield, then threw a tankard of wine at the landlord’s head.
This prompted a pub brawl that expanded into a city-wide riot after one of the townsfolk called for assistance by ringing the bells of St Martin’s church, while the students rang those at St Mary’s, the University Church. Weapons that even included bows and arrows were used by both sides and, the next day, people from the local area joined the carnage with cries of, ‘Havoc! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!’
The riot lasted for three days and left more than 90 people dead. The townsfolk were found to be responsible and were ordered to attend Mass for the souls of the dead students every year on the anniversary of the riot. They were also required to swear an oath acknowledging the University’s privileges, and pay a fine of 63 pence – one for each dead student. This continued until 1825 when the Mayor refused, but was only rescinded by Parliament in 1955.
Earlier in 1826, the academy’s strict superintendent Colonel Sylvanus Thayer had banned the purchase, storage and consumption of alcohol due to concerns about drunkenness among the cadets. However, the new rules were ignored by cadets who sought to continue the annual tradition of drinking homemade eggnog on Christmas Eve.
Late on the 22 December three cadets crossed the Hudson River and bought whiskey from Martin’s Tavern. Having paid the security guard at the academy to ignore their smuggling efforts, they hid the alcohol in one of their rooms in the North Barracks while another cadet successfully obtained another gallon from another local tavern.
The party began at around 10pm on the evening of 24 December in North Barracks room No. 28, followed by another party in room No. 5. Jefferson Davis, who was later elected President of the Confederate States of America, was one of the cadets in attendance.
The party continued without much incident until around 4am, when noise from the increasingly drunken revellers woke teaching officer Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock who went to investigate and ordered the cadets back to their rooms. Incensed, at least 70 drunken cadets instead launched the infamous riot in which they brandished weapons, broke windows, and assaulted two officers.
Of the rioters, only 19 of them faced disciplinary action. Beginning on 26 January 1827, the trials resulted in guilty verdicts for all the defendants although eight of them were saved from expulsion.
On June 11th 1837, the Broad Street Riot broke out in Boston, Massachusetts, between Irish immigrants and existing American citizens known as Yankees.
Due to its large seaport, Boston was a key location for immigrant arrivals to America. It was a particular focal point for Irish immigrants, who began arriving in large numbers from the second part of the 18th Century. Tensions between the new Catholic immigrants and the existing Protestant American citizens grew during this time.
The violence began when a company of firefighters returning to their firestation from a blaze in another part of the city met a large group of Irish people making their way to a funeral procession. The firefighters had spent some time in a nearby saloon, and one of them – a nineteen year old called George Fay – either insulted or pushed some of the mourners. The two sides began to fight in the street, but being outnumbered the firemen were ordered to return to their station. It was there that their foreman, W. W. Miller, issued an emergency alarm that called all Boston firefighters to come and help. The violence grew to involve around 1000 people on both sides who also broke into houses and destroyed property. Fortunately, despite the fierce street-fighting, nobody was killed before the military arrived to put an end to the carnage three hours after it began.
Despite the evident underlying racial tensions, immigrants continued to arrive in Boston after the riot, with the number of Irish arrivals reaching a peak during the catastrophic Potato Famine of 1845 to 1852.