Disinterring Slum-Clearance London: Expertise and User Perspectives in the 1930s Maritime East End



London, literary studies, design history, literary geographies, slum, fiction, nonfiction, East End


Combining perspectives from spatial literary studies and design history, this article offers a historically contextualised and multiperspectival view of imaginative place as a new tool for practitioners of radical urban geography and relational literary geographies. It originates in two independent research traditions. Both reveal a clash between expert and user perspectives mediated by diverse texts discussing areas classified as slums in 1930s London. The article contributes to a growing literature reclaiming London’s maritime East End as a culturally rich zone whose identity as imaginative place has been contested by different groups throughout the period since the early nineteenth century.  Its methodology provides a model for putting different text types, here a 1935 slum clearance appeal hearing transcript and a 1937 novel of migrant experience, into a framework that makes them comparable and mutually comprehensible. Humanised insights from the 1930s maritime East End thus contribute to London history and historical geography, both sizeable fields, but also to conceptual work by spatially oriented literary scholars and geographers with literary interests.

Author Biographies

Jason Finch, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Assistant Professor, English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts, Psychology and Theology, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

Jessica Kelly, University for the Creative Arts, UK

Lecturer in Contextual and Theoretical Studies, School of Communication Design, UCA Farnham


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