Historicising riots is a challenging process. Balancing the characterisation of violent trauma alongside the longer trajectories of associated grievances, and acts of contestation, poses representational tensions for associated scholars. Emphasis, both in contemporary sources and recent scholarship, upon exceptional episodes of violence potentially overplays the particularity of the of event, and perhaps detracts from the recognition of smaller, less visible, and everyday acts of exclusion and contestation. In this paper, we propose to revisit the 1919 British seaport riots through a political geography lens, considering continuities and variations in the experiences, trajectories and contexts of the events in South Shields and Glasgow. Theoretically, we draw upon intersecting work within cultural studies, history and geography to reflect upon critical space-time geographies in relation to the political atmospheres of violent events. This facilitates an engagement with a variety of sources to characterise the 1919 riots, including trade union records, Colonial Office documents, newspaper reports and police records. We argue that bringing together these archival materials allows a recognition of the heterogeneity of experience associated with seemingly exceptional episodes of racialised violence.