Life in an East-End Tenement Block 1887 - 1920
'Jerry White has written a moving and richly detailed history of those times and those people. They are recalled like a lost tribe, revealing the extraordinary courage of ordinary people in their day-to-day battle for existence' - Guardian
Winner of the Jewish Chronicle Harold H. Wingate Literary Award.
Rothschild Buildings were typical of the 'model dwellings for the working classes' which were such an important part of the response to late-Victorian London's housing problem. They were built for poor but respectable Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, and the community which put down roots there was to be characteristic of the East End Jewish working class in its formative years.
By talking to people who grew up in the Buildings in the 1890s and after, and using untapped documentary evidence from a wide range of public and private sources, the author re-creates the richly detailed life of that community and its relations with the economy and culture around it. The book shows how cramped and austere housing was made into homes; how the mechanism of class domination, of which the Buildings were part, was both accepted and fought against; how a close community was riven with constantly shifting tensions; and how that community co-existed in surprising ways with the East End casual poor of 'outcast London'.
It provides unique and fascinating insights into immigrant and working-class life at the turn of the last century.
“Prize[d] for its rich, detailed insights into immigrant life in turn-of-the-century Spitalfields... Though White's commentary steers the reader and supplies valuable context, it's the interpolated quotations from tenants which bring the Buildings to colourful, tumultuous life”
“With an economy of language, without sentimentality, yet with a sensitive perception, rare for an outsider looking in on an alien world, Jerry White marvellously evokes the lost world of the immigrant 'greener'”
“A work of first-class history and a major contribution to the social history of Anglo-Jewry, lively, well-researched and eminently quotable”
“We are never likely to have another account which sets these personal recollections so firmly in the physical environment in which people grew up, struggled and sometimes flourished. A whole historical episode is illuminated by the decision to focus on just a couple of streets and the people who lived there”
Times Educational Supplement
“Jerry White has given us a book which deserves to be on every historian's shelf”
Paul Thompson, History Today
“As rich and informative a community study as one could hope to get”