Jerry White's Books

Mansions of Misery - A Biography of the Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison

For Londoners of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, debt was a part of everyday life. But when your creditors lost their patience, you might be thrown into one of the capital’s most notorious jails: the Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison.

The Marshalsea became a byword for misery; in the words of one of its inmates, it was ‘hell in epitome’. But the prison was also a microcosm of London life and it housed a colourful range of characters, including Charles Dickens’s father. The experience haunted the writer, who went on to immortalise the Marshalsea in his work, most memorably in Little Dorrit.

In Mansions of Misery, acclaimed chronicler of the capital Jerry White introduces us to the Marshalsea’s unfortunate prisoners – rich and poor; men and women; spongers, fraudsters and innocents. We get to know the trumpeter John Grano who wined and dined with the prison governor and continued to compose music whilst other prisoners were tortured and starved to death. We meet the bare-knuckle fighter known as the Bold Smuggler, who fell on hard times after being beaten by the Chelsea Snob. And then there’s Joshua Reeve Lowe, who saved Queen Victoria from assassination in Hyde Park in 1820, but whose heroism couldn’t save him from the Marshalsea.

Told through these extraordinary lives, Mansions of Misery gives us a fascinating and unforgettable cross-section of London life from the early 1700s to the 1840s.

"The most notorious prison of all, immortalised by Charles Dickens, was the Marshalsea on the south side of the Thames in London, now the subject of Jerry White’s fascinating institutional biography." - The Times

"The story of the Marshalsea is also the story of ordinary Londoners and the telling of it results in a fascinating and beautifully written social history of the metropolis." - London Historians Blog

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Zeppelin Nights - London in the First World War

Spear’s Social History of the Year 2014

Guardian Best Book of the Year 2014

11pm, Tuesday 4 August 1914: with the declaration of war London becomes one of the greatest killing machines in human history. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers pass through the capital on their way to the front; wounded men are brought back to be treated in London’s hospitals; and millions of shells are produced in its factories.

The war changes London life for ever. Women escape the drudgery of domestic service to work as munitionettes. Full employment puts money into the pockets of the London poor for the first time. Self-appointed moral guardians seize the chance to clamp down on drink, frivolous entertainment and licentious behaviour. As the war drags on, gloom often descends on the capital. And at night London is plunged into darkness for fear of German bombers and Zeppelins that continue to raid the city.

Yet despite daily casualty lists, food shortages and enemy bombing, Londoners are determined to get on with their lives and flock to cinemas and theatres, dance halls and shebeens, firmly resolved not to let Germans or puritans spoil their enjoyment.

Peopled with patriots and pacifists, clergymen and thieves, bluestockings and prostitutes, Jerry White’s magnificent panorama reveals a struggling yet flourishing city.

"Zeppelin Nights is social history at its best… White creates a vivid picture of a city changed for ever by war" - The Times

"Jerry White's name on a title page is a guarantee of a lively, compassionate book full of striking incidents and memorable images… This is a fast-paced social history that never stumbles… A well-orchestrated polyphony of voices that brings history alive" - The Guardian

"White delivers in brilliant time-eclipsing detail an evolving and often deeply moving portrait of a city that became gradually squeezed to its limits" - Sunday Telegraph

"Jerry White is masterful at mixing hard facts and statistics with telling anecdotes" - Mail on Sunday

“It is an extraordinary tale – peopled by characters from all walks of the capital’s life – and White, a prize-winning author of London’s late-modern history, tells it with gusto, nuance and panache” - Evening Standard

“... a fascinating study.... White gives us many vivid moments, and builds up a convincing picture of what Londoners experienced and even felt during those momentous and sometimes even exhilarating four years that one contemporary described as simply ‘wonderful’” - Sunday Times

"A superbly detailed account… Professor White has written a fine social history that portrays London as a teeming nerve centre of the Allied war effort" - Financial Times

“White provides an exceptionally well-researched account of wartime life in London, and makes significant contributions to a number of scholarly debates” - Journal of Family & Community History

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London in the Eighteenth Century

London in the Eighteenth Century - jacketBy 1700, after half a century of relentless expansion, London had overtaken Paris to become the largest – if disputably the finest – city in Europe. A striking feature of this monster city in 1700 was its newness. In September 1666 some three-fifths of the City of London had been destroyed in the Great Fire. The losses were immense – 13,200 houses were burnt to the ground and so were most of the great public buildings, including St Paul's Cathedral.

London in the Eighteenth Century details the growth of the city and urban change; the make-up of the Londoner from home and abroad; ways of earning a living from banking to begging; the public pleasures of London and the crime and prostitution that accompanied them; the tightening sinews of power and discipline; and the hesitant beginnings of London democracy.

"White is one of our great chroniclers of London and this beautifully written, impeccably researched and incredibly generous book is a necessity for those of us who are not yet tired of life." - The Sunday Telegraph

"A dazzling and dramatic narrative... a must for anyone seriously interested in London's history" - Evening Standard

"White brings a diligence and contagious zest that may serve to discourage anyone from ever tackling the subject again" - Sunday Times

"A brilliant account of the bursting, overflowing city, with its glittering wealth and harrowing poverty... A work of undoubted academic authority... yet it is also a poetic evocation" - Financial Times

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London: The Story of a Great City

London: The Story of a Great City jacketNo city can lay claim to a more dramatic history than London. Engulfed in calamities that seemed to mark its end - fire, plague, riot, civil war, mass bombing - from each crisis it has emerged stronger than ever. Its cultural life, and the long heritage that underpins it, has made London one of the most visited and best-loved places on Earth. It is this extraordinary story that "London: The Story of a Great City" encapsulates: the rise of the city from a remote outpost of Rome's northern empire; the growth of trade that sent money and ships to every corner of the earth; the roll-call of great Londoners from Shakespeare to Dickens, from Cromwell to Churchill; the strength of its institutions, Parliament prominent among them; the endurance of its people in the face of disaster and war; its innovations in enterprise and pleasure; its dark side in crime and mayhem; and, the positive example it gives the world as a tolerant city in the face of global movements of people.

For its lavish illustrations and memorabilia, this book draws on the fabulous resources of the Museum of London, one of the world's great city museums. The Museum's uniquely rich collections illuminates the whole of London's history through artefacts, documents, maps, paintings and photographs.

"White's narrative is lively and engaging, and the facsimiles are well's also great fun" - Sunday Telegraph

"The new history of the capital" - Time Out

"..relentlessly cheerful....The facsimiles are very finely reproduced" - Times Literary Supplement

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London in the Twentieth Century

London in the Twentieth Century - hardback jacketLondon in the Twentieth Century - paperback jacket Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2001

In 1901, London was the greatest city the world had seen in size, wealth and grandeur. Yet it was also a city where poverty and disease were rife. London in 2001 was no longer among the world's very largest cities, but was still one where vast wealth was displayed - alongside beggars sleeping rough. Such paradoxes are among the defining experiences of living in London in this extraordinary century, and in this colourful book Jerry White tells the story not just of London, but of Londoners too. He examines the changes on the worlds of work, transport, popular culture, politics and government and shows how London affects its inhabitants, shaping their lives and being shaped in turn by them.

Beautifully illustrated and with a wealth of detail, this is a definitive and highly readable history of London in the twentieth century

"A brilliant, acclaimed book which examines one of the world's greatest cities during one of the most tumultuous centuries"

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London in the Nineteenth Century

London in the Nineteenth CenturyLondon in the Nineteenth Century - paperback jacketLondon in the nineteenth century was the greatest city mankind had ever seen. Its wealth was dazzling. Its horrors shocked the world. As William Blake put it, London was ‘a Human awful wonder of God’. It was a century of genius - of Blake, Thackeray and Mayhew, of Nash, Faraday, Disraeli and Dickens.

Jerry White’s dazzling book is the first in a hundred years to explore London’s history over the nineteenth century as a whole. We see the destruction of old London and the city’s unparalleled suburban expansion. We see how London absorbed people from all over Britain, from Europe and the Empire. We see how Londoners worked and played. Most of all, we see how they tried to make sense of their city and make it a better place in which to live. Emerging clearly from this eloquent and richly-detailed overview is the London we see about us today.

"Quite extraordinary... The writing is extremely lucid, colourful and, though he does not shrink from the occasional technical word, the author presents his subject in a very readable story" - BBC Who Do You Think You Are Magazine

"Meticulously researched and full of often engaging detail" - The Guardian

"Both exhaustive and detailed: both scholarly... and human... irresistible" - BBC History Magazine

"From a prize winning historian, a fresh and energetic look at a century of frenzied growth" - The Sunday Times

“A dazzling and dramatic narrative”London Evening Standard

“Magisterial”The Observer

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Campbell Bunk: The Worst Street in London Between the Wars

Campbell Bunk jacketFrom the 1880s to World War II, Campbell Road, Finsbury Park (known as Campbell Bunk), had a notorious reputation for violence, for breeding thieves and prostitutes, and for an enthusiastic disregard for law and order. It was the object of reform by church, magistrates, local authorities and scientists, who left many traces of their attempts to improve what became known as "the worse street in North London". In all that record, the voice of Campbell Bunk itself was silent. Campbell Road was eventually cleared as a slum in the 1950s.

This title provides insight into the realities of life in a "slum" community, showing how it changed over a 90-year period. The author uses extensive oral history to describe in detail the years between the wars, revealing complex lessons between the new world opening up (especially for young women) in Campbell Bunk and the street's traditional culture of economic individualism, crime, street theatre and domestic violence.

"A more lucid and penetrating analysis of an urban slum would be hard to imagine….a most subtle and powerful evocation of life and labour." - The Guardian

"A brilliant and searching study….I do not believe that even Henry Mayhew could have done greater or more sympathetic justice to the memory ``Campbell Bunk’’ and its inhabitants." - Victor Neuberg, British Book News

"This is an enthralling book which comes as near as possible to understanding an urban community in its environment. It deserves to become a classic" - Emrys Jones, Planning Perspectives

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Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East-End Tenement Block, 1887-1920

Rothschild Buildings jacketRothschild Buildings were typical of the 'model dwellings for the working classes' which were such an important part of the response to late-Victorian London's housing problem. They were built for poor but respectable Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, and the community which put down roots there was to be characteristic of the East End Jewish working class in its formative years. By talking to people who grew up in the Buildings in the 1890s and after, and using untapped documentary evidence from a wide range of public and private sources, the author re-creates the richly detailed life of that community and its relations with the economy and culture around it. The book shows how cramped and austere housing was made into homes; how the mechanism of class domination, of which the Buildings were part, was both accepted and fought against; how a close community was riven with constantly shifting tensions; and how that community co-existed in surprising ways with the East End casual poor of 'outcast London'. It provides unique and fascinating insights into immigrant and working-class life at the turn of the last century.

"Jerry White has written a moving and richly detailed history of those times and those people. They are recalled like a lost tribe, revealing the extraordinary courage of ordinary people in their day-to-day battle for existence." - Bernard Kops, The Guardian

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