Edinburgh, June 10th 1940: “That child is wearing my jumper”

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


It is unclear the extent to which attitudes to the Italian community in Scotland changed with the advance of Fascism in the 1930s. As in other parts of the UK, Italians had been employed mainly in, and indeed owned, catering and retail establishments that had become defining elements of the urban landscape. Italian cafés and ice-cream shops were important sites of social aggregation. That said, prevailing anti-Roman Catholic prejudice, particularly in areas of the UK where sectarianism was more present, intensified feelings of marginalisation.

Italy’s entry into World War Two in June 1940 prompted a spate of anti-Italian riots across the UK targeting particularly Italian business premises, very often also family homes. Historical accounts as to how violent the riots were vary, and they also disagree over their sectarian as well as political motivations. In terms of the Italian community’s collective memory of the War, the sinking of the Arandora Star in early July 1940 in which hundreds of Italian men resident in the UK drowned was devastating. The sinking has in recent years been memorialised as the determining traumatic site of the historical Italian community’s sense of identity. Without wishing to underplay the grief and sense of loss caused by the sinking of the Arandora Star, I will suggest that for many Italians it was the trauma of urban violence perpetrated often by their close neighbours in the course of the rioting that had the most lasting effect. The paper will examine a range of accounts regarding the riots of June 10th 1940 in Edinburgh in order to identify the social and cultural tensions inhabiting these stories of urban, domestic violence.

Key Words: Arandora Star, anti-Italian riots, World War Two, domestic violence
Period17 Jun 201918 Jun 2019
Event titleCities in Conflict: Urban Space and Violence
Event typeConference
LocationCork, IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational