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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
East End Chronicles
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on 3 September 2017
If you're interested in the East End, this is a good addition to your collection.
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on 16 June 2017
Coming from this part of London, I found the book very amusing
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on 18 August 2006
I think this book is well worth reading - as the previous reviewer noted there are a lot of fascinating stories and information in here, and to give the author he has dug up same real gems. But at the same time I was disappointed because with such rich material to work with the book could have been so much better.

It really cries out for a good editor. The thematic structure could work perfectly well and in some cases does (e.g. the chapter on the history of the Chinese in the East End) but at other times it seems random and repetitive.

For example, Jack the Ripper. Obviously you can't have a book about the East End without Jack the Ripper. But rather than cover it in a chapter on murder - a seemingly obvious place - we get 15 pages on it in a chapter on mystics and religion just because there has been speculation that some of the murders may have followed Masonic ritual. And we then got a lot of the detail repeated a little later on in a chapter on the Jews in the East End because there was also speculation that the Ripper might be Jewish.

I also found the imbalance between different subjects slightly odd and occasionally rather frustrating. For example, there is more space devoted to describing the route followed by Falk the 18th century alchemist on his daily walk than there is to the Black Death, which is dismissed in three paragraphs. In total we get eight pages on Falk, who is presumably one of the author's pet topics but is of at best limited interest to the rest of us.

In addition there are quite a lot of silly mistakes that could and should have been picked up (e.g. a statement that World War 2 started in 1940).

To sum up: it is worth reading anyway, but it is not half as good as it could have been given the subject matter.
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on 20 August 2010
A thoroughly enjoyable romp through the historic East End, packed full of the sights, smells, murders and mysteries of the last 400 years. There are some very interesting chapters on the development of the docks, ex-pat radical plotters, a refreshingly unsentimental look at the misery of the blitz, and tales of numerous misfits and oddballs.

Although Glinert has written an entertaining social history, his style sometimes irritates. He includes his own ludicrous theory on the Jack the Ripper murders and shamelessly peppers later chapters with his strong personal views on post-war housing policy. Most unforgivably of all, he makes several references to the terrible film version of "From Hell" without even mentioning the fantastic Alan Moore work that spawned it. Bad Edward!
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on 9 August 2006
I just finished it this morning after reading it in super fast time because I couldn't put it down.

Rather than a dry, chronological history of the East End, each chapter deals with a different aspect area from 1665 to the present day.

Some of the chapters and topics covered include:

The rebuilding of the area after the Great Fire (this is particularly fascinating as it details the theory behind the way in which the new streets and buildings were planned)

'The Silk Weavers of Spitalfields' - the Huguenot immigrants

'The Mysteries of the Orient' - the Chinese immigrants and their opium dens

The Docks

Jewish immigrants

Political uprisings, including the British Union of Fascists

The Blitz and the Second World War

Of course, it would not be complete without a chapter on Jack the Ripper and the Ratcliff Highway Murders

If you are in any way interested in the history of London then this book is essential. Accessible, stuffed with pieces of little-known information it is a superb read.
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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!
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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2010
Glinert's book gives a solid overview of the last 300 years of the history of the East End (defined as the 4 mile wide territory east of the City of London marked by the boundaries of the Lea river to the east, Thames to the south and Victoria Park to the north).

Attention is given to all of the usual suspects - the arrival of the Huguenots and impact of immigration generally on the East End's population (including the Jewish Ghetto), the docks, their workers and the slums and the Blitz. There is a particular focus on some of the more horrific crimes in the East End's history - Jack the Ripper, the Radcliffe Highway Murders and the crimes and riots from the anarchists and communists.

Glinert has clearly done a great deal of research and there's a long bibliography of sources at the back, together with a comprehensive index. There are lots of fascinating nuggets and small details that help bring events to life - e.g. the cuts and grazes suffered by dockers unloading salt.

Surprisingly the weakest section is that given to Jack the Ripper, where Glinert spends a lot of time recounting the theory that Masons were involved in the killing owing to the fact that certain Masonic rituals appeared to be referenced by the killer and later devotes time to the theory that the artist Walter Sickert was involved in the murders. Neither of these theories seem to carry much weight with Ripperologists.

There's also a certain amount of editorialising by Glinert when it comes to more recent planning history and he is particularly contemptuous of the decision by planners to tear down the old terraces houses and squares in favour of modern office blocks and council housing blocks. While some of the criticism is understandable with the benefit of hindsight, little consideration is given to the attitudes of the time, which has a distorting effect.

Nevertheless, this is an interesting book with a lot that enthusiasts of social history can enjoy and learn from. Definitely worth a flick through.
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on 24 January 2012
A very powerful and graphic disclosure of the East End that reaches back much further than the time frame given in the book itself.
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on 11 September 2012
Whilst some have pointed out that there may be certain important omissions from the book, I am finding it an interesting snapshot of times gone by. We may be going through hard times economically at present, but life around Ratcliffe Highway and other less salubrious spots in days gone can only be imagined by the description that the author gives, which is enough to make me thankful I was born into this generation rather than one a few hundred years ago!
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on 20 December 2014
This book was fascinating and left me wanting to know more, truth is often stranger than fiction. Well worth a read.
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