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Book Notes: Outsiders and Outcasts, Geoffrey Alderman and Colin Holmes (eds.)

Gerry Black

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Outsiders and Outcasts. Edited by Geoffrey Alderman and Colin Holmes (Gerald Duckworth &amp; Co Ltd, London 1993) 214 pp. ?25.00. This is a well-deserved Festschrifi in honour of William J. Fishman, Honorary Fellow of Queen Mary and Westfield College at the University of London, a teacher who has inspired generations of scholars. In his definitive East End Jewish 281</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes Radicals 1875-1Q14 (Duckworth &amp; Pantheon 1975), and in The Streets of East London (Duckworth 1979) and East End 1888: A Year in a London Borough among the Labouring Poor (Duckworth &amp; Temple University Press 1988), he has illumin? ated the story of the proletariat, both Jewish and Gentile, in the East End of London. Seven of the nine essays in this volume (several of whose authors clearly share Fishman's leftward leanings) expand on Fishman's themes, and remind us that the Jewish East End experience had more similarities with that of their Gentile neighbours or predecessors than differences. Only Geoffrey Alderman's Tower, Authority and Status in British Jewry: The Chief Rabbinate and Shechita', and Martin J. Daunton's 'The City and Industry: The Nature of British Capital? ism', though enlightening, seem out of kilter with the main theme. From Panikos Panyani, 'The German Poor and Working Classes in Victorian and Edwardian London', we learn that there was still an important German Gen? tile community 25,000 strong in the East End in 1914. Mainly economic refugees, they included a high percentage in trades such as sugar-baking and tailoring which endured long periods of seasonal unemployment. They too suffered a high level of poverty from the 1800s onward, which stretched the limits of their main charities, just as Jewish poverty challenged the purse of the Jewish Board of Guardians and other Jewish charities. This group suffered from deception and fraud, both on their journey to England and on their arrival, from rogues who 'befriended' them and from some of their countrymen who exploited their labour. The depth of unemployment and its accompanying misery is graphically described by Jerry White in ' "Penniless and without Food": Unemployment in London between the Wars'; and by John Gorman in 'Another East End: A Remembrance', a beautifully written evocation of life in West Ham, the area to the east of what is known as the Jewish East End but nonetheless part of the East End proper. Apart from the fact that his family were not foreigners in a strange land, their working-class experience largely matched that of the immigrant Jew: the hard? working mother, the daily life centred on scullery and kitchen, the lodgers and the good neighbourliness, among other common characteristics. Tony Kushner, 'Jew and Non-Jew in the East End of London: Towards an Anthropology of "Everyday" Relations', in discussing whether the Jewish experi? ence revealed a tradition of racial tolerance in the East End or a tradition of racism, suggests that governments, rather than pander to racism through immigra? tion controls, should have more faith in the British people and their ability to accept local and national plurality. Thomas P. Linehan, 'The British Union of Fascists in Hackney and Stoke Newington, 1933-40', gives an extremely detailed picture of fascist activity, and the issues on which they battened to further their cause. Colin Holmes, 'The Chinese Connection', points out that even the smallest immigrant communities can attract criticism and prejudice. Anne Kershen widens the debate in 'Henry Mayhew and Charles Booth: Men of their Times', and contrasts Mayhew's failure to have his research seriously accepted for almost a 282</page><page sequence="3">Book Notes century, with Booth's success in finding the ear of the policy makers. This was due, she concludes, not only to Booth's personal qualities and the financial muscle which Mayhew lacked, but above all to Booth being the right man, in the right place, at the right time. Her essay, and the others mentioned above, are salutary reminders to us that when looking at Jewish experience it is important to place it in its wider context, and not to assume that it was totally unique. Gerry Black</page></plain_text>

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