Attitudes and responses to the influx of ethnic immigrants into the East End of London 1840 to 1905: A local study of Irish and Jewish immigration into the East London districts of Whitechapel and St George-in-the-East

Lally, Kevin (2020). Attitudes and responses to the influx of ethnic immigrants into the East End of London 1840 to 1905: A local study of Irish and Jewish immigration into the East London districts of Whitechapel and St George-in-the-East. Student dissertation for The Open University module A826 MA History part 2.

This dissertation was produced by a student studying the Open University module A826 MA History part 2. The research showcased here achieved a grade in either the Pass 1 band (equivalent to a 1st) or the Pass 2 band (equivalent to a 2.i).
Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.
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Abstract

The two East London districts of Whitechapel and St George-in-the-East experienced very high levels of both Irish and Jewish immigration, with huge influxes of Irish immigrants in the late 1840s and 1850s and of East European Jews from 1881 until 1905. This study considers the attitudes and responses of local officials, social commentators and newspapers to these waves of immigration. This study sets out to test whether concerns about immigration were expressed using derogatory language linking perceived social and economic problems with particular racial characteristics. It also aims to show that those local officials and charities who had close contact with the immigrants did not consider that immigration posed any major concerns and that they provided positive support to help improve their conditions.

Much of the historiography of both Irish and Jewish immigration has focused on the social and economic apartness of the immigrant communities and whether this contributed to concerns about immigration being expressed in prejudicial language, linking problems with racial characteristics. However, in relation to Irish immigration, a number of local studies outside London have demonstrated that the response to Irish immigrants varied significantly from region to region. There has also been debate about the extent to which local officials and charities provided positive support to the immigrant communities.

This study concludes that the use of derogatory and racial language was used not only by newspapers and periodicals but also, on occasion, by officials, residents’ groups and politicians. However, it also concludes that, although the local officials and social commentators who examined the Irish and Jewish immigrants confirmed the very harsh conditions in which they lived and worked, they generally did not attribute blame to the immigrant communities. There were also many examples of local officials and charities providing support to the immigrant communities with the objective of improving their condition. However, there was also an element of ambivalence in their response.

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