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Two thousand years of English history in one neighbourhood



Religious strife, civil conflict, waves of immigration, the rise and fall of industry, great prosperity and grinding poverty – the handful of streets that constitute modern Spitalfields have witnessed all this and much more.

In Spitalfields, one of Britain's best-loved historians tells the stories of the streets he has lived in for four decades. Starting in Roman times and continuing right up to the present day, Cruickshank explains how Spitalfields' streets evolved, what people have lived there, and what lives they have led. En route, he discovers the tales of the Huguenot weavers who made Spitalfields their own after the Great Fire of London. He recounts the experiences of the first Jewish immigrants. He evokes the slum-ridden courts and alleys of Jack the Ripper's Spitalfields. And he describes the transformation of the Spitalfields he first encountered in the 1970s from a war-damaged collection of semi-derelict houses to the vibrant community it is today.

This is a fascinating evocation of one of London's most distinctive districts. At the same time, it is a history of England in miniature.


Genial, erudite and companionable . . . this heroic and heartfelt book caps a career devoted to [Spitalfields'] heritage.


With beguiling erudition, TV historian and local resident Cruickshank tells the story of Spitalfields from Roman times to today . . . This is people’s history at its tastiest.

Sunday Express

A passionate, scholarly energy and involvement with every era of the district's long history come off Spitalfields' pages . . . Absorbing detail.

Times Literary Supplement

Cruickshank writes perceptively and honestly . . . As well as being a fascinating account of a unique area of London, Spitalfields is a timely warning that helps us to appreciate what the city and country risk losing.

Country Life

Dan Cruickshank bores into the rich history of Spitalfields, the area of east London where he has lived for decades.

Rowan Moore, Best Books of 2016, Observer

Cruickshank’s history laments the City’s encroachment on Spitalfields and the attendant growth there of estate agents, internet companies, fashion outlets and beardy hipster capitalists bent on having their slice of East End exotica.

Best Books About London, Evening Standard

Dan Cruickshank has long been a resident of Elder Street in Spitalfields. In this elaborate chronicle of the district’s past, he takes us on a historical tour that runs from the Romans to Tracy Emin . . . A love letter to a distinctive part of London that has always retained its own personality.

History Today

A delight to read . . . Teaches one how to use one's eyes more intelligently.

Jean Seaton, Chair of Judges, PEN Hessell-Tiltman History Prize

This is an elegy to a place changing beyond recognition . . . Cruickshank is an appealing, sympathetic writer.

The Times

Particularly interesting is the story of Elder Street viewed through architectural sources, taxes and censuses. It acts as a microcosm showing the changes Britain faced over the centuries.

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

For history lovers, this is an excellent read . . . Cruickshank's meticulous research is breathtaking.

Historical Novel Society

[Spitalfields'] raffish vitality is derived from the area's long history of embracing immigrants . . . Cruickshank warns that the greatest threat to Spitalfields comes from the ever-encroaching march of tower blocks.

Must Reads, Daily Mail

French Protestants in the 17th century, Irish journeymen in the 18th, Russian Jews in the 19th, Bengalis in the 20th and international hipsters in the 21st have settled in Spitalfields, an area either side of London's Commercial Street that must be, square metre for square metre, among the most migrated-to places in the world. It is so dense with stories that Dan Cruickshank's 750-page history of this 'handful of streets', published last year, feels too short.

Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    June 15, 2017

    Windmill Books

    784 pages

    RRP $40.00

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • Hardback


    October 15, 2016

    Random House Books

    784 pages

    RRP $70.00

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • Fishpond
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    October 6, 2016

    Cornerstone Digital

    784 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • iBooks NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia NZ

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