London's East End in fact and fiction

Course Dates: 14/06/25
Time: 10:30 - 16:30
Location: Keeley Street
Covering the early 19th century to the early 20th century, we will examine the history of the East End, and we will analyse how it was portrayed in works of fiction.
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Full fee £69.00 Senior fee £55.00 Concession £45.00

London's East End in fact and fiction
  • Course Code: HLW209
  • Dates: 14/06/25 - 14/06/25
  • Time: 10:30 - 16:30
  • Taught: Sat, Daytime
  • Duration: 1 session
  • Location: Keeley Street
  • Tutor: Sarah Wise

Course Code: HLW209

Sat, day, 14 Jun - 14 Jun '25

Duration: 1 session

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Centre for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

Two sessions exploring East London history via some of the vividly realised fiction written about its various districts in the years between 1820 and 1920. We will think about how imaginative fiction and historical fact intertwine to create local legend.

Extracts will be sent out in advance.

Teaching will be by lecture and seminar/group discussion.

What will we cover?

Among the authors we will take as our tour guides are Dickens, GWM Reynolds (author of the best-selling ‘Mysteries of London’), Walter Besant, Margaret Harkness, George Gissing, Israel Zangwill, Henry Wood Nevinson, Arthur Morrison, LT Meade and Thomas Burke.
We will read extracts from these works and set their artistic visions of the East End alongside the historical processes that were taking place across a tumultuous 100 years of change.
Using maps and images, we’ll explore areas including Stepney, Poplar, Shoreditch, Limehouse, Wapping and Bethnal Green.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Detail the key authors and works associated with the East End
• Analyse how works of fiction have contributed to the image of the East End over time.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is for anyone with an interest in the history of the East End or in London literary history more generally, although no prior knowledge of these areas is required.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Teaching will be by lecture and seminar/group discussion. Extracts will be sent out in advance, though reading these in advance is optional.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

None. Just bring a pen/pencil and paper for taking notes, and printouts of the extracts if you prefer to make notes alongside the texts.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Other courses on London and British history. Please see the City Lit website.

Sarah Wise

Sarah Wise is an award-winning writer and historian, with an MA in Victorian Studies from Birkbeck, University of London. She teaches social history and literature at the University of California’s London Outreach Center. Her interests are urban history, working-class history, medical history and nineteenth-century literature and reportage. Her most recent book, Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England, was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize. Her 2004 debut, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London, was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and won the Crime Writers’ Association Golden Dagger. Her follow-up The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum (2008) was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize. She was a contributor to the volume Charles Booth's London Poverty Maps, published by Thames & Hudson/London School of Economics, and appeared on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time to discuss Booth's work For reviews

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.