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Title: A reconsideration of Lord Scarman's inquiry into the Brixton riots of April 1981
Author: Craddock, Emma
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2017
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In recent decades, scholars of contemporary British history have grappled with the perceived changes in British society which characterised the post-war era. One of those changes involved race, and the interactions between black and Asian communities and the Establishment. This thesis is centred around one key event when, from 10-12 April 1981, Brixton was the scene of violent confrontations between largely young, largely black residents and the police. In the immediate aftermath the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, appointed Lord Scarman to head an inquiry into what had occurred, which proved controversial and was boycotted by some Brixton based community groups. Scarman's report was published in November 1981 and the government publicly accepted its recommendations. However, recently declassified and newly available documents have allowed for this thesis to reconsider the inquiry and how it was received. It examines the inquiry process and the opposition to it; how the inquiry was perceived by the government and whether Scarman's recommendations were implemented; and what newly available witness testimony tells us about the events of 10-12 April. The analysis indicates that the side-lining of this testimony in favour of accounts from the Metropolitan Police compromised Scarman's conclusions, especially regarding policing. This reconsideration makes clear that the inquiry was viewed as problematic because of how it was organised, and that although the government may have publicly accepted the conclusions of the report, actions taken (or not taken) served to undermine this position. Through lack of statutory authority, lack of funding or lack of support, the government ensured that most of Scarman's recommendations would be badly implemented or not implemented at all. Overall, the Scarman inquiry and its aftermath raise questions about how British society viewed black Britons, about whether there was genuine commitment to improvement regarding issues of racism, and about racism within the Metropolitan Police.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arta and Humanities Research Council ; University of Aberdeen
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Riots