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The violent frontline: space, ethnicity and confronting the state in Edwardian Spitalfields and 1980s Brixton

Renshaw, D. (2018) The violent frontline: space, ethnicity and confronting the state in Edwardian Spitalfields and 1980s Brixton. Contemporary British History, 32 (2). pp. 231-252. ISSN 1743-7997

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/13619462.2018.1434001


This article discusses in comparative terms the relationship between space, ethnic identity, subaltern status and anti-state violence in twentieth century London. It does so by comparing two examples in which the control of the state, as represented by the Metropolitan Police, was challenged by minority groups through physical force. It will examine the Spitalfields riots of 1906, which began as strike action by predominantly Jewish bakers and escalated into a general confrontation between the local population and the police, and the Brixton riots of 1981, a response to endemic police harassment of mainly Caribbean youth and long-term economic discrimination in that area of South London. It will begin by dissecting the association of physical metropolitan space with the diasporic ‘other’ in the Edwardian East End and post-consensus South London, and how this ‘othering’ was influenced both by the state and the anti-migrant far right. It will then interrogate the difficult relationship between the Metropolitan Police and Jewish and Caribbean working class communities, and how this deteriorating relationship exploded into in extreme violence in 1906 and 1981. The article will conclude by assessing how the relationships between space, identity and violence influenced long-term national and communal narratives of Jewish and Caribbean interactions with the British state.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:75036


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