This essay began from a continuity, or perhaps a persistence. Working as historians and cultural critics in very different periods, early modern England and the nineteenth-century countryside, we have both been struck for some years by continuities of behaviour in situations of riot or disorder. At one level this was first pointed to in the work of E.P. Thompson and George Rude in relation to eighteenth-century riot. Both these writers argued that far from riot being a spontaneous, anarchic and random event it was nearly always structured and organised. Thompson in particular introduced, through the notion of ‘moral economy’, the idea that rioters shared ideas about ‘right’ which Were related to an earlier customary social and economic order. From a very different, but equally important perspective, we have both been profoundly influenced by the flowering of cultural studies associated with the work of Mikhail Bahktin, and cultural anthropology growing from the work of Victor Turner and Pierre Bourdieu. In these Writers we found arguments about boundaries and structures which were both erected and transgressed by rituals of various kinds. Finally, a very few historians working on riot and popular disorder have been struck by the same continuity, notably, Michael Beames in his study of Whiteboyism, and very recently, Andrew Charlesworth in the Pages of this journal. This brief essay will seek to illuminate our notion of continuity, using some of these ideas. It is offered not as a definitive piece, but rather as an interpretation of some of these materials.