Whitechapel – Immigration & tensions

Today you will be learning about different groups of people who lived in Whitechapel. Whitechapel had attracted immigrants for a long time. It was popular because it offered cheap accommodation and was located near the docks where there was a chance of casual work.

Irish immigrants

Many Irish left Ireland for the USA in the 1840s but ended up staying in London due to a lack of money.

Most Irish worked as navvies – labourers building roads, canals, railways. Or at the docks.

The Irish had a reputation for being drunk and violent.

Most Irish were poor and could only afford to live in the cheapest areas, such as Whitechapel.

The Irish were associated with terrorism were thought of as Fenians. At that time Ireland was ruled by Britain and Fenians wanted home rule (Ireland ruled by Ireland).

There were a series of bombings in London connect to Fenians. A bomb attack on Clerkenwell Prison in December 1867 caused a surge of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic feeling.

Eastern European Jews

Most Jews came from Russia and Poland. They arrived in England after fleeing persecution in the Russia Empire.

Many Jews were poor because they had fled their homes. This meant they could only afford the cheapest locations, such as Whitechapel.

The Jewish community tended to be segregated with Jews living in the same streets. This led to some streets being 95% Jewish. This led to prejudice against them.

Cultural differences made it hard for Jews to integrate. Barriers included language, religious holidays and Sabbath rituals. Locals were suspicious of the unfamiliar customs and language.

Many Jews worked for Jewish owned businesses in sweatshops making clothes and shoes. This further segregated Jews.

Question

The table below shows key features identified for the two immigrant groups above Irish and Jews. Match the feature to the correct group.

Key FeatureWhich immigrant group?
ACame mainly from Eastern Europe, fleeing persecution.
BWere resented by the local workers of Whitechapel.
CCame to London on route to America.
DThey were associated with terrorism were thought of as Fenians.
Click to reveal the answers

Jewish immigrants – A & B
Irish immigrants – C & D – could also be B.

Question

The table below shows key features identified for the two immigrant groups above Irish and Jews along with supporting details.
Match the feature to the correct supporting detail.

Key FeatureSupporting detail
ACame mainly from Eastern Europe, fleeing persecution.1Compared to the poor working class living in Whitechapel they seemed to find employment
easily
and were often successful in business.
BWere resented by the local workers of Whitechapel.2Many were very poor and ended up staying London working as navvies or at the docks.
CCame to London on route to America.3In 1881 the Russian Tsar had been assassinated and they were blamed. The Russian government started to attack them so they fled to Britain to avoid persecution.
DThey were associated with terrorism were thought of as Fenians.4At that time Ireland was ruled by Britain and Fenians wanted home rule (Ireland ruled by Ireland). There were a series of bombings in London connect to them including a bomb attack on Clerkenwell Prison in December 1867.
Click to reveal the answers

Jewish immigrants:
A 3
B 1

Irish immigrants:
C 2
D 4

Anarchists and Socialists

Anarchists were opposed to organised government and laws.

Socialists wanted a political and economic system that was owned or controlled by the state.

Both anarchists and socialists were feared by the authorities, upper and middle classes.

There was some support for anarchy and socialism in Whitechapel.

There had been bombings and attacks in Europe. English newspapers linked them to anarchists. This led to people in England fearing anarchists.

Newspapers and some people in government linked the arrival of Jews with a growth of extreme political ideas such as anarchy and socialism in England.

 In 1893 a Special Branch began a secret operation to monitor the activities of Eastern European revolutionaries.

The Socialist Democratic Federation (SDF) was the first socialist party in Britain. It was involved in the Trafalgar Square demonstration that led to Bloody Sunday.

Question

Which group is being described? Socialist or anarchist.

They wanted to end the capitalist system in Britain to create a fairer spread of wealth. They believed it was unfair that only a few people benefited from the money made by industry. They wanted greater government involvement. The first party had been founded in Britain in 1881 called the SDF and there was hope that they may be able to get a local councillor elected in Whitechapel due to the large number of working class residents there, whom they represented.

Question

Check your basic knowledge of each group.
Match the social group to the correct description

Social groupDefinition
AIrish1They were opposed to organised government and laws. The group was linked to terrorist activity in Europe.
BJewish2A potentially revolutionary group who wanted to bring down the current political system in England. They wanted state ownership of the economy. Their political party was called the Socialist Democratic Federation, SDF.
CSocialists3Immigrant population which grew during the 1880s. Most were fleeing Eastern Europe after persecuted by the Russian Epire.
DAnarchists4Immigrant population which expanded rapidly from the1840s. They came to London on route ot America, but few left London. They worked as navvies and on the docks.
Click to reveal the answers

Irish: A4
Jewish: B3
Socialists: C2
Anarchists: D1

GCSE Style Question

Describe two features of immigration into Whitechapel. [4 marks]

Immigration led to a rise in tensions in Whitechapel. Groups did not trust each other and blamed each other fro hardship and crime. Existing communities in Whitechapel were fearful of the impact immigration.

Question

Look at the comments listed below. They comments made by local residents of Whitechapel about immigrants during the 1880s.
Link the comment with a group
. The first has been done for you.

  1. They are taking local people’s jobs – Irish and Jews.
  2. They might set off a bomb.
  3. They don’t speak English. I don’t know what they are saying.
  4. They are often drunk and causing problems with the police.

Well done – you have completed today’s learning

Want to learn more?
Grades 9- 7



Learn more about the Eastern Jewish refugee community
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zykqrdm/revision/5
https://www.jack-the-ripper.org/jewish-history.htm

Recap socialism and anarchism in more detail