The East End of London is an area of London, England, east of the Roman and medieval walled City of London and north of the River Thames. Although not defined by universally accepted formal boundaries, the River Lea can be considered another boundary. It is universally agreed, however, that the East End is to be distinguished from East London, which covers a much wider area.
Use of the term East End in a negative connotations began in the late 19th century, as the expansion of the population of London led to extreme overcrowding throughout the area and a concentration of poor people and immigrants. The problems were exacerbated with the construction of St Katharine Docks (1827) and the central London railway termini (1840–1875) that caused the clearance of former slums and rookeries, with many of the displaced people moving into the East End. Over the course of a century, the East End became synonymous with poverty, overcrowding, disease and criminality.
Originally it was an area characterised by villages clustered around the City walls or along the main roads, surrounded by farmland, with marshes and small communities by the River, serving the needs of shipping and the Royal Navy. The area attracted large numbers of rural people looking for employment. Successive waves of foreign immigration began with Huguenot refugees. They were followed by Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis. Many of these immigrants worked in the clothing industry. This brought the attentions of social reformers and led to the formation of workers unions at the end of the century.
The Second World War devastated much of the East End, with its docks, railways and industry forming a continual target for bombing leading to dispersal of the population to new suburbs being built in the 1950s. The closure of the last of the East End docks in the Port of London in 1980 created further challenges and led to attempts at regeneration and the formation of the London Docklands Development Corporation. The Canary Wharf development, improved infrastructure, and the Olympic Park mean that the East End is undergoing further change.
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