Greeners and sweaters: Jewish immigration and the cabinet-making trade in East London, 1880-1914

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twenti? eth the East End of London was in a state of acute and chronic social crisis, graphically portrayed by contemporary writers such as Jack London.1 The district was beset by problems of unemployment and under-employment, low wages, appalling and inadequate housing, over-crowding and all the conse? quences of endemic severe poverty. Into this ‘abyss’, as Jack London charac? terized it, came from the early 1880s onwards an influx of impoverished foreign Jewish immigrants. Most were fleeing state-sponsored persecution and violence to seek a safer and freer environment. Many, however, were also what might now be classified as ‘economic migrants’, hoping for a better life and a share in the perceived prosperity of the leading industrial nation.2

The immigrants found their way into several established London trades. However, it was the three classic ‘sweated trades’ of

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