The riots in early August 2011 were arguably the worst bout of civil unrest in a generation. However, unlike in the early 1980s there was to be no Scarman-style inquiry into the causes. Meanwhile, politicians and others rushed to pronounce on what had happened, and why, and to offer an array of policy solutions. While several reviews and investigations were subsequently established, a number of very significant gaps in public understanding of the events remained. Most visible among these was what drew people out on to the streets for four nights in August and what motivated them? We’d had riots, but we knew little about the rioters. The Guardian had been at the forefront of the reporting of the riots, both in a traditional journalistic sense and much more broadly through the collection and analysis of data from the courts as arrests and prosecutions mounted up. The opportunity was there to expand this work and to embark on something truly ambitious: a full-scale study of the riots and their aftermath. It was this that led to the partnership with the LSE’s Social Policy Department and, with the generous support of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Open Society Foundations, to Reading the Riots. We believe this will prove to be a landmark study. It is a unique collaboration between a national newspaper and a leading university. Its overarching aim has been to conduct high-quality social research at a speed and in a way that maximises its likelihood of affecting public and political debate without sacrificing any of its rigour. This report brings together the outcome of the first phase of the study, focusing in a way that has not previously been possible on the nature, motivations, attitudes and experiences of those who rioted across London and in Birmingham, Manchester, Salford, Nottingham and Liverpool.