Stepney from the outbreak of the First World War to the Festival of Britain, 1914-1951: a profile of a London borough during the first half of the 20th century

Bird, Samantha L. (2009) Stepney from the outbreak of the First World War to the Festival of Britain, 1914-1951: a profile of a London borough during the first half of the 20th century. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.

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Abstract / Description

The motto for Stepney was a magnis ad maiora (from great things to greater) and this thesis attempts to assess how far the area achieved such improvements, and against what odds, during the first half of the 20th Century. The First World War is the starting point of this thesis as it was to have long-term implications for Stepney. Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London, in his Easter sermon of 1918 first used the slogan 'They Shall Not Pass'. For Stepney, this was to become a significant slogan during the Battle of Cable Street, eighteen years later, in 1936. Another event in the First World War, which was to have an affect on the country's preparations for the Second World War, was the death of 18 schoolchildren when Upper North Street School was directly struck during a zeppelin raid. This event was one of the main reasons, according to Philip Ziegler, for the later evacuation of schoolchildren from cities across the country. The overall theme for this thesis is the politics of the labour movement during the first half of the 20th Century. What makes Stepney distinctive during this period is its political diversity with the rise of the Labour, Communist and Fascist parties. The politics of the labour movement are addressed through relevant local issues such as housing and ethnicity. Stepney also had a diverse community. During the First and Second World War tensions were heightened within the area due to the internment of military aged 'alien' males. However in the inter-war years there was the significance of the integration of the Jewish community, in particular, into the politics of the labour movement. For Stepney, housing was also an ever-present issue. Poor quality housing characterised Stepney. Throughout the period covered by this thesis, housing was a persistent issue on the borough council. Both the First and Second World War saw a halt to building work, and the subsequent post-war periods saw election campaigns promising that the housing issue would be effectively addressed. A test of the promises in the 1945 election campaign was the Live Architectural Exhibition for the Festival of Britain, which saw the Lansbury estate presented as a pioneering example of modern architecture. This thesis aims to address two further issues which have generally been overlooked by other historians. The first is the tendency of historians to try and encompass the entire East End, which is often undefined, or vague, in their work. This thesis is focused on a specific study of the Stepney area. Secondly historians have often concentrated on the late 19th Century up to the outbreak of the First World War. This research begins with the First World War and climaxes with the Festival of Britain thus aiming to add to our collective knowledge.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Stepney; 20th Century; Battle of Cable Street; Upper North Street School; labour movement; Jewish community; Live Architectural Exhibition; Festival of Britain
Subjects: 900 History & geography > 940 History of Europe
Department: School of Social Sciences and Professions
Depositing User: Chiara Repetto
Date Deposited: 12 May 2022 10:43
Last Modified: 12 May 2022 10:43


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