Little Italy in the Great War

Philadelphia's Italians on the Battlefield and Home Front

Richard N. Juliani
Book Cover

PB: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1878-4
Publication: Nov 19

HC: $109.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1877-7
Publication: Nov 19

Ebook: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1879-1
Publication: Nov 19

314 pages
6 x 9
23 halftones

How Philadelphia’s Italian community responded during World War I

Read the Introduction (pdf).


The Great War challenged all who were touched by it. Italian immigrants, torn between their country of origin and country of relocation, confronted political allegiances that forced them to consider the meaning and relevance of Americanization. In his engrossing study, Little Italy in the Great War, Richard Juliani focuses on Philadelphia’s Italian community to understand how this vibrant immigrant population reacted to the war as they were adjusting to life in an American city that was ambivalent toward them.

Juliani explores the impact of the Great War on many immigrant soldiers who were called to duty as reservists and returned to Italy, while other draftees served in the U.S. Army on the Western Front. He also studies the impact of journalists and newspapers reporting the war in English and Italian, and reactions from civilians who defended the nation in industrial and civic roles on the home front.

Within the broader context of the American experience, Little Italy in the Great War examines how the war affected the identity and cohesion of Italians as a population still passing through the assimilation process.


“Little Italy in the Great War analyzes how Philadelphia’s Italian-American immigrant community—pulled by loyalties to Italy and the United States, or by resentments—reacted to the Great War’s traumas on the home front and abroad, forging a new, multifaceted identity as Americans. Richard Juliani has examined a highly complex subject from all angles, producing a readable, groundbreaking book that will dominate the field for years and serve as a model for future research.”—Spencer M. Di Scala, Professor of History, Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Boston, and author of Italy: From Revolution to Republic

Richard Juliani’s latest book on the Italian experience in Philadelphia is his deepest so far. He examines the vexed issue of immigrant loyalties in wartime, assembling an elegant narrative through a meticulous sifting of immigrant attitudes and actions during World War I. The story involves a profound irony: though the war placed immigrant men in a conflicted and uncertain situation, those who came back from Europe did so with a new commitment to their adopted country and stronger identities as Americans.​” —Richard Alba, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author of The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority and Minority in America.

"Juliani describes the impact of World War I on our city’s Italian community, then the second largest in America. Through individual stories gleaned from period sources, Juliani puts human faces on existential choices about home, loyalty, and belonging.... Juliani’s almost granular treatment of his subject reflects his personal connection and the quality of his sources. "
— Broad Street Review

" Juliani provides an admirably researched microhistory that explores how Philadelphia’s Italian Americans responded to the demands of World War I.... Juliani’s publication makes a very strong contribution to the study of Philadelphia’s social history in the early 20th century. He deepens our understanding of how the Great War shaped Italian ethnic identity as immigrants and their children began to amalgamate within a wider American community."
— Pennsylvania Heritage

" (A)n exhaustive account of how the city's Italian immigrants were affected by World War I and how they perceived their immigrant status while maintaining strong ties to their native country.... (An) enlightening and well-researched book."—The Delaware Valley Italian-American Herald

Table of Contents


1. Philadelphia’s Italians: From Earliest Arrivals to the Great War
2. From Sarajevo to Little Italy
3. Little Italy Goes to War
4. Little Italy as a Home Front: Winning Hearts and Minds
5. News from the Italian Front
6. The Italian War Commission: Seeking American Aid
7. Recruiting Immigrants and Other Americans
8. Training the Italian American Soldier: From Camp Meade to France
9. Turning Aliens into Citizens
10. Italy—The Forgotten Ally
11. They Who Served
12. Waging War on the Home Front: Women, Children, and Others
13. Making It Through—and Coming Home
14. Celebrating the Italian Victory—Fuori Italia
Epilogue: Being Italian; Becoming American


About the Author(s)

Richard N. Juliani is Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at Villanova University and was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the former President of the American Italian Historical Association, and is the author of Priest, Parish, and People: Saving the Faith in Philadelphia’s "Little Italy" and Building Little Italy: Philadelphia’s Italians Before Mass Migration.