East London constitutes of the most highly populated regions that form London. It has a population of approximately 2 million people (Marriott 2012). The focus of the current paper is on East End. Quoted by Marriott (2012), Plamer Alan views the area across Lea as part of East End. In contrast, Tames (2004) defines the region as comprising London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, despite acknowledging that the definition is narrow. Despite the differences in the classification of all regions that make the East End London, a general contention is that East End London is different from East London. East End covers a lesser area compared to East London. This paper discusses East End London in the context of Michael Young and Peter Wilmott’s book, Family and Kinship in the East End and Geoff Dench, Kate Gavron, and Michael Young’s work titled The New East End: Kinship, Race, and Conflict.
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Demographic Makeup of East End London
The demographic characteristics of the East End London increased tremendously over the 19th century (Marriott 2012). This situation threatened the capacity of the buildings of the region to hold the rapidly growing population. However, during the interwar era, the population started to decline following the witnessed immigration to other parts of London, including Becontree estate (Marriott 2012). Immigration was also common in areas outside London. The rate of population reduction continued to be high during the Second World War period.
In 1801, Wales and England had a total population of 9 million people (The UK office of national statistics 2001). However, by 1851, the population had grown tom18 million. Towards the close of the century, the population was about 40 million (The UK office of national statistics 2001). From the 2001 census data, the Tower Helmets had its population consisting of 33.5% Bangladeshi. This finding showed that the Bangladeshi were the largest population of Tower Hamlets. However, the 2006 census showed a decline of the population to about 29.8 percent (Marriott 2012). Although East End London has a high population of Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani immigrants, it also has a native population included Cockneys, which the paper is mainly concerned about.
How East End London has changed: The Reasons Why it has come to where it is Right Now
The characteristics of the population that occupied East End in the 1950s are different from the one that has been occupying the region in the past one decade. From the description of the population in the 1957 book titled Family and Kinship in the East End by Michael Young and Peter Wilmott, homogenous races dominated different sub-regions of East London. However, from Geoff Dench, Kate Gavron, and Michael Young’s work The New East End: Kinship, Race and Conflict, published in 2006, such homogeneity has now been eroded. East London has now become multicultural. The region continues to absorb different immigrant waves. Hence, new dimensions of culture continue to alter the demographic characteristics to the extent that the region has now become culturally diverse. For example, in the 1960s through the 1970s, a new wave of Bangladeshi and Indian immigrants settled in the region (Tames 2004).
The population of East end London has also immensely changed since the 1950s. For example, with more people settling in East End from other parts of the world such as the UK, a new form of culture has emerged. This culture is dominated by high consumerism (Dench, Gavron & Young 2006). The culture has now become innate to all people who live in East End London. It defines norms and values that are associated with modernity. Such values are hard to smash when they are normalised. The norm for the East End multicultural culture is marked by owning big houses, several cars, air conditioners, and other equipment. Even though this new culture that defines the new East End London appears natural to many people, it is not only unsustainable but also not an accurate manifestation of the nature of East End London’s population of 1957 as described by Michael Young and Peter Wilmott in the book Family and Kinship in the East End.
Multiculturalism in East London
Culture implies people’s beliefs, behaviours, social norms, ideas, and traditions that influence their decision-making process or shape the processes of their socialisation. It is transmitted from one person to another through language and performance in terms of behaviour modelling. Therefore, it can proclaim or discourage certain behaviours within a society. When people with different value systems come together, for instance, through immigration, one culture may erode the other. Alternatively, a new form of culture may emerge. The new form of culture integrates all cultures of immigrants who settle in a given area. Such an area with integrated culture is considered multicultural. As described by Geoff Dench, Kate Gavron, and Michael Young, multiculturalism now dominates the new East End London society.
East End London is a region with people from different races, religious affiliations, and colour among other diversity differences. Differences exist in the number of people who subscribe to a particular cultural dimension. For example, Christianity is the main religious affiliation of the population of East End London (Dench, Gavron & Young 2006). However, Judaism and Islamism form an important religious affiliation of the population. Such differences have led to the emphasis on the need to ensure harmony between different people who live together in a super-diverse population of today’s East End London. Communities that seek to have stabilised attachments with reference to the demographic, social, and economic influxes in East End London have constructed the multicultural context of the region. The construction of multicultural contexts involves the development of particular ways of interactions, practices, social, and even economic elements that demonstrate a sense of belonging for the residents of East End London.
The Originals of East London
Today, people from all lifestyles inhabit East End London. Indians, the Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis among other racial minority immigrants constitute the major population segment. However, the region has its original dwellers. East End London is considered a land that was primarily inhabited by Cockneys. In fact, ‘On the surface, we think of it as a tight-knit community inhabited by chirpy Cockney barrow boys and flower girls, playfully peppering their sales patter with rhyming slang’ (East End: the land of Cockneys 2012, para.3). This assertion brings to light the dark historical part of the native East End London dwellers. East End London came into being in the Victorian Era. Since then, its dwellers are associated with backwardness, poverty, rampant grimy industries, dense population, social unrest, and violent crimes (Tames 2004). However, this observation does not imply that Cockneys have all these attributes. Since time immemorial, the west end has looked down upon the East End dwellers. Indeed, much of the negativity towards Cockneys involved stereotypical perceptions (East End: the land of Cockneys 2012). The subsequent sections attempt to expound this assertion.
Multiculturalism in the Case Studies
Michael Young and Peter Wilmott’s Family and Kinship in the East End
The book Family and Kinship in the East End region forms an important 1950s scholarly work that seeks to address the implication of family relocation from urban to various suburban housings. The book is based on case studies and extensive interviews conducted in East London. The book may be broken into two separate sections. The first section details the structure of communities coupled with families among the East End’s working class. Young and Wilmott (1957) reveal how pivotal relationships exist among adult women and their mothers. This relationship is critical in establishing an appropriate tone for the rest of other family relationships, which constitute the basic building block for engagement with the broader society.
Young and Wilmott (1957) argue that families were interdependent. For example, in case of childbirth, the authors assert that wives highly depended on the advice given by their mothers more than what was availed by health workers or even their spouses. Therefore, relocation programmes had the implication of breaking down family relationships (Young & Wilmott 1957). Hence, the movement of people from settlements that had homogeneous cultural backgrounds to random settlements that brought people from different cultures together had negative implications on family structures and community engagements. This effect was more pronounced among native dwellers such as the Cockneys of East End London.
The second section of the book describes the experiences of East Enders who inhabited Greenleigh. According to Young and Wilmott (1957), the manner of housing people in suburban houses through the estate planning policy implied a breakdown of community ties. The authors note, ‘individual young families moved out without their mothers-in-law and the network, which radiated out from them (mothers-in-law), they experienced a material improvement in their quality of life’ (Young & Wilmott, 1957). The outcome was a breakdown of connections with well-knit communities where everyone knew all people around. Such relationships formed an important foundation for sharing common norms and values, which defined culture. Therefore, the arguments raised by Young and Wilmott (1957) on the relocation policy may be considered the effects of bringing people with different value systems and norms together. This situation had the implication of creating a new avenue of interaction in a multicultural context.
Through the second section of the book, Young and Wilmott (1957) do not condemn the new housing based on their architectural appearance. Rather, they are concerned about the implication of the ways of life in the new settlements. The arising questions revolve around whether implications such as the possibility of developing a multicultural society constituted something that East End dwellers could celebrate or complain about. If they could embrace it, they would be comfortable with material comfort associated with the re-housing plan. The political regime sought to ensure that people lived in houses with good ventilation coupled with well-designed plumbing and settlements (Young & Wilmott 1957). However, the authors regard disconnections among family members as threatening to families and communal ties. The dilemma here concerns what is better between living under good housing where one experiences cultural fragmentation to build a multicultural society and/or mitigating such fragmentation, but retaining cultural ties in East End London.
Geoff Dench, Kate Gavron, and Michael Young’s The New East End: Kinship, Race and Conflict
Published in 2006, Geoff Dench, Kate Gavron, and Michael Young’s book The New East End: Kinship, Race and Conflict investigates how issues of race, kinship, and conflicts interrelate in the construction of the multicultural New East End London. A recurring theme in the book is the attitude of East End residents against other London dwellers. Therefore, among the many research questions that the authors investigate, two questions are insightful. What does it mean to be a Cockney or any other East End London dweller? Which historic path have East End natives undergone to fit in the current definition of East End residents?
The book is based on a series of interviews spanning a period of 12 years. The interviews were conducted in Tower Hamlets. The authors put forward arguments that have critical implications on multiculturalism in East End London. For example, they identify discrepancies in policies citing a particular case in which housing and benefits were awarded based on need while disregarding past direct contributions (Dench, Gavron & Young 2006). To this extent, Bangladeshi immigrants were major beneficiaries of housing and benefits in Tower Hamlets. This situation had a direct implication on the building of racial tensions and the stability of families in Tower Hamlets and the entire East End London. Dench, Gavron, and Young (2006) examine the tension claiming that the white families, especially the working class, became fragmented since some members were relocated to Essex. Hence, the influx of new settlers in East End region had the impact of creating distrust among whites and those who came from the Indian subcontinent. Consequently, instead of multiculturalism strengthening East End London, issues of racism emerged.
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The book insists that the originals of East End London, especially the working class, felt a sense of betrayal coupled with heavy loss following the colonisation of their land by incomers. The past dark side and experiences of the original of East End London needed to entitle them to something they would be proud of. To this extent, the authors write, ‘their world was snatched from them by bombs and housing policies, other people’s notions of progress and the pressures of consumerism’ (Dench, Gavron & Young 2006, p.183). The region also has different ideological perceptions.
When the grimy industries emerged in the East End, the originals found themselves working in them. While this experience was humiliating to them, Dench, Gavron, and Young (2006) insist that such experiences are not over even today. Professional working classes believe that they have moral superiority while compared to the working class (Dench, Gavron & Young 2006). However, it remains questionable on whether a true spirit of multiculturalism has emerged in East End akin to the high influx of new immigrants drawn from across the world and from other parts of London. The harmony of multiculturalism is based on the pillar of equality of people, regardless of their racial, cultural, or even ethnic differences. From the work of Dench, Gavron and Young (2006), such harmony is not evident in East End London due to racial tensions.
How the History of Immigration from the Indian Subcontinent has Shaped Multiculturalism in East London
Dench, Gavron, and Young (2006) admit that immigration increases the richness of racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity. The 1991 census evidenced the multicultural aspect of Britain. About 5.5% of people considered themselves members of ethnic minorities. Roughly 28 percent of members in this population described themselves as having their roots in the Indian subcontinent (The UK office of national statistics 2001). In the 2001 census, the proportion of the ethnic minorities had risen to 7.9 percent. The immigrants from the Indian subcontinent accounted for the largest proportion of the ethnic minorities followed by persons from mixed backgrounds such as Bangladeshis and Pakistanis (The UK office of national statistics 2001). These statistical findings indicated that immigrants from the Indian subcontinent are major contributors to the multicultural richness of Britain, including East End London.
East End London has had a dark history that is linked to low life with its originals, Cockneys, being stereotyped as illiterate and backward people (Young & Wilmott 1957). Hence, grimy industries that were less attractive to the west end were more likely to be located in this region. In 1960, various employers in the urban areas recruited people from the Indian subcontinent to fill the low paying jobs. Such jobs were least attractive to the locals. In fact, the migration of people from the Indian subcontinent to Britain was motivated by economic reasons and the attainment of better educational opportunities (Dench, Gavron & Young 2006). The peak of the immigration occurred during West Indian immigration. From the arguments of the two case studies, immigrants from the Indian subcontinent were more likely to settle in East End London due to their association with low status and the availability of jobs in grimy industries. Thus, the immigrants contributed immensely to the construction of multicultural East End London.
How East London has changed during the Life Time of My Parents
The state of affair throughout the lifetime of my parents has not only changed in East End London but also in other areas, including Birmingham. In the last two weeks, I spent some time discussing with my parents about their experiences in Tower Hamlets. In the debate, although I would anticipate seeing them appreciating the development of multicultural society as an important aspect they would boast about, they only recounted the dispossession of their identity, which they have witnessed over the last 50 years. They described new estates that they had relocated to over the last 50 years as places of vandalism coupled with lawlessness. To their surprise, the outcome of the blend of people from different backgrounds gives room for the flourishing of racism. They claimed that this situation has been the outcome of the destruction of familial linkages previously supported by virtues of good neighbourhood, which tied their communities together before the new housing policy was implemented. Young and Wilmott (1957) predicted these changes when they argued that the prices of a strong welfare nation would have the implication of undermining the relationships of communities and families. The situation would produce disastrous outcomes since the relationships are important determinants of both emotional and physical wellbeing of the citizenry of East End London.
East End Landon has had a dark history that is characterised by primitive life. West Enders regarded East End Landon’s originals, especially the Cockneys, as backward individuals. The situation was aggravated by the influx of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people coupled with other racial minority immigrants who were looking for employment and educational opportunities. When the government implemented the policy for new housing, racial tensions grew stronger since the familial and community structures of the original dwellers of East End London were further fragmented. While the relocation policy and influx of immigrants created a multicultural East End London, the case study has argued that the inevitability of racial tensions threatened the multicultural harmony in East End London.
Dench, G, Gavron, K & Young, M 2006, The new East End: Kinship, race and conflict, Profile Books, London.
East End: the land of Cockneys 2012, Web.
Marriott, J 2012, Beyond the tower: A history of East London, Yale University Press, Padstow.
Tames, R 2004, East End past, Historical Publications, London.
The UK office of national statistics 2001, Census, Routledge, London.
Young, M & Wilmott, P 1957, Family and kinship in the East End, Profile Books, London.