on 18 May 2011
This book is really a socio-political history of London's East End and is a very interesting and absorbing read. However, there are some obvious problems. These are the glaring omissions. There is no mention of England's most famous higwayman Dick Turpin who at one time was an apprentice butcher in Whitechpel. In 1737 he escaped from the Red Lion Pub, Whitchapel. However, his accomplice highwayman "Captain" Tom King was killed. Ed Glinert does mention the 16th century seafaring expeditions led by Sir Hugh Willoughby, Richard Chancellor, Martin Frobisher and Henry Hudson that sailed from Blackwall or Ratcliff on their epic journeys. Furthermore, he mentions Captain James Cook who lived for a time in Shadwell and then Mile End. However, he omits completely the story of the local privateer Sir Michael Geare who was born in Limehouse in 1565. Sir Michael sailed with Sir George Carey, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I and from 1588-1591 rose through the ranks until he became captain of his own ship. An associate of Sir Francis Drake, Geare sailed throughout the Caribbean attacking and capturing Spanish treasure ships. In 1603 he was knighted by King James I and retired to a luxurious home in Stepney. Glinert outlines the awlful conditions of brutality and violence in Old Nichol Street (The Jago) during much of the nineteenth century. However, he omits to mention the Bluegate Fields at St. George's-in-the East which was probably the most dangerous portside slum in England. This was an East End area of deprivation, disease, prostitution and drugs. Nor does he mention the notorious White Swan pub on the Highway in Shadwell where visiting seamen met up with local prostitutes. Furthermore, there is nothing in this book about "coining" -the making of counterfit money; an industry that was widespread in the mid-19th century East End. On page 133 Glinert outlines the activities of Issac (Ikey) Bogard "Darkie the Coon". Yes, Bogard was a pimp and a gangster around the Brick Lane area during the period before World War One. However, Glinert fails to mention that in that war Bogard was a decorated war hero and was the recipient of the Military Medal. He became a reformed character - married and raised a family and became something of a minor local philanthropist. Furthermore, in this book there no mention of the 19th century East End working class blood sport pastimes such as ratting and dog fighting. Also there is nothing at all about the East End's obsession with boxing. Especially, the Jewish obsession with this sport. On page 129 Glinert states that "The proletarian Jew was taught that manual work was not to be worshiped as an end in itself, but was simply a stepping stone to a greater - calling making or managing money." This is absolute nonsense and an unfortunate stereotype. Robert Winder in his book "Bloody Foreigners - The Story of Immigration to Britain" makes it quite clear that he Jews of Britain are "Musicians, buisinessmen, surgeons, cab drivers, dustmen, comedians, designers, journalists, judges, teachers, nurses, cooks, shopkeepers, electricians, soldiers, publishers, actors, firemen, boxers, philosophers: there have been geniuses and blackguards, and everything in between. Almost every field has been touched by this Jewish odyssey". Two Jewish boxers from the East End were of course world champions Ted "Kid" Lewis, Jackie "Kid" Berg. Some of the other fighters were Teddy Berg, Phil Lolosky, Harry Fox, Moe Mizler, Ralph Felt, Kid Rich, Sid Fine, Jack "kid" Nitram, Paoi Schaeffer, Joe Braharus, Harry Mason, Moe Moss, Max Baerand, Buddy Baerand, Dave Finn, Lew Cohen, Benny Sharkey, Jack Hyams, Mickey Gould, Jack Camek, Harry Silver, Harry Mizler, Lew Lazar and so on. They don't fit Glinert's silly stereotype. I think I've made my point. And there's more. On page 206 Glinert says that in 1936 "no Jew would willingly cross Burdett Road eastwards". Well, Jews did and many of them lived east of Burdett road. Infact the Mile End and Bow District United Synagogue was situated in Harley Grove, just off Bow Road and served this community. O.K. there are lots more silly comments in this book such as the one about the Brady Youth Club: "At Brady youth club on Hanbury Street anglicized young Jews forsook a life of rabinical study to play football to the point of nausea and trade R&B recods." There was much more to the Brady club than this. I would suggest that Ed Glinert take a look at the Brady box files at Tower Hamlets Archives. This book does have some excellent chapters. "The Silk Weavers of Spitalfields", "Mystics and Myth Makers", and "The Mysteries of the Orient" are an excellent read and it's worth buying this book just for these chapters. And then there was the nude shows at the Queen's Theatre Poplar in the 1950's. But, that's not in this book!