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Friends, Aliens, and Enemies: Fictive Communities and the Lusitania Riots of 1915

Nicoletta F. Gullace
Journal of Social History
Vol. 39, No. 2, Kith and Kin: Interpersonal Relationships and Cultural Practices (Winter, 2005), pp. 345-367
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790772
Page Count: 23
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Friends, Aliens, and Enemies: Fictive Communities and the Lusitania Riots of 1915
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Abstract

In May, 1915, a wave of anti-alien rioting spread through the poorer neighborhoods of Liverpool, Manchester, London, and other English cities, resulting in the most wide-spread civic unrest in modern British history. The ostensible cause of the rioting was the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915 by a German U-boat hiding off the Irish coast. This essay examines the riots in the context of neighborhood politics and family life, focusing particularly on the impact of the riots on interpersonal relations. While the German navy sank the Lusitania, ordinary Britons ransacked, beat, and looted German neighbors who were often long-time associates and friends. Unable to stem the riots though police measures and legal action alone, the government responded to popular hostility with the internment of enemy aliens and the repatriations of large numbers of ethnic Germans. This paper draws on archival and published materials to make sense of the local and interpersonal dimensions of the Lusitania riots and to explore the emotional dimensions of civic expulsion.

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