This book is a popular history that is definitely sensationalising the history of the East End. It’s not presented in a chronological fashion, but each chapter looks at a specific area of the past, with a lot of emphasis on murder and crime. I noticed quite a few historical inaccuracies in the introduction alone. For all intents and purposes I should have hated it for being so popular and inaccurate but I found I was enjoying it anyway. I think I was reading it more as “folklore” than history. I think if you take the stories in it as stories rather than history it is quite an interesting portrayal of the seedier aspects of East End.
One of the most entertaining parts of the book was talking about Jewish Anarchists in the late 19th early 20th centuries. There was talk about how the normal Jews had hired a bunch of Jewish gangsters to disrupt the anarchists, who then hired the same gangsters to annoy the well meaning community, which saw them pelting them with bacon sandwiches as they were coming out of synagogue. Not very nice but I must admit it did make me giggle. There was actually quite a bit of coverage of the Jewish community in this book, and particularly about the anti-semitism feelings that were around in the 20th century. I must admit that I had no idea that there were such fascists in England in the 30s and such prejudice against the Jews here.
This is definitely an interesting and enjoyable book though I would recommend it with caution....Continua