(Re-)imagining Germanness: Victoria's Germans and the 1915 Lusitania riot.




Richards, Arthur Tylor

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In May 1915 British soldiers stationed near Victoria instigated a retaliatory riot against the local German community for the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. The riot spanned two days, and many local residents eagerly took part in the looting and destruction of German owned businesses. Despite its uniqueness as the city’s largest race riot, scholars have under-appreciated its importance for Victoria and British Columbia’s racial narrative. The riot further signals a change in how Victorians understood Germanness. From the 1850s onwards, Victoria’s British hegemony welcomed Germans as like-minded and appropriate white settlers. I argue that race and colour shaped German lives in Victoria, for the most part positively. During the war however Germanness took on new and negative meaning. As a result, many Germans increasingly hid their German background. Germans maintained their compatibility with the British hegemony, largely thanks to their whiteness, well after German racial background became a liability.



Canada, race, whiteness, Germans, Victoria, British Columbia, WW1, Great War, Lusitania, British Columbia