From the transient street art of Banksy and Pablo Delgado to the exhibitions of Doreen Fletcher and Gilbert and George; from the novels of Charles Dickens and Monica Ali to televisual series produced by the BBC and ITV; and from early eighteenth-century churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor to twenty-first century skyscrapers conceived by Norman Foster, the East End is an iconic area of London.
In the span of four hundred years, the region to the east of the Tower of London, and north of the River Thames, has undergone a series of transformations. In the sixteenth century, it was arable land with a few dispersed villages. By the nineteenth century, it was one of Europe’s worst urban slums and an object of investigation for literary writers, social scientists, philanthropists, Salvationists, and journalists. Today, owing to gentrification, the area includes neighborhoods of great affluence—chic restaurants, exclusive retail shops, and expensive real estate—within boroughs of extraordinarily straitened circumstances, where life expectancy is considerably lower than the City of London. As it has evolved, the East End has served as the birthplace of radical political and social movements and as the principal site for a variety of diasporic communities: French Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution; Jews, escaping the pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia; and Bengali Muslims, driven from their homeland by conflict and famine.
Although the East End has attracted significant scholarly interest from a wide array of disciplines, there has been no comprehensive guide to its social and cultural history. Until now.
The Encyclopedia of London's East End is forthcoming from McFarland, a leading independent publisher of academic books.