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A historical journey full of character from Wapping in the south through Spitalfields and Bethnal Green to Hoxton, Haggerston and Hackney in the north


East London has changed more dramatically than any other part of the city over the last thirty years. From a desolate, and in many places derelict, state after the bombing of the Second World War, it has become one of the most fashionable neighbourhoods in the world, with new developments in Canary Wharf and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as well as Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane.

Charles Saumarez Smith, who has lived in the area since the early 1980s, invites the reader to join him on his explorations, which are both historical and geographical, describing the unique character of spaces and places new and old. He guides the reader around shops, churchyards, parks, pumping stations and cemeteries, up the Regent’s Canal and across Victoria Park. Each of the old villages and neighbourhoods that make up East London is shown, through photographs taken on his travels, to offer unexpected and fascinating discoveries.

A Financial Times Book of the Year

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'A vigorous, clear-sighted and beautiful book of journeys through the East End … Charles Saumarez Smith is a very good companion on his flaneurial walks, amusing, erudite and engaged in his response to buildings, people and places. I loved it'
Edmund de Waal

'The tone is more like that of Pevsner’s Buildings of England guides, but with the subjective comment knob turned up and the academic one turned down'

'Wide-ranging, personal, beautifully observed'
Mark Fisher

'Informal but informative and interesting'
Peter Ackroyd

'Charles Saumarez Smith has transposed his engaging, wandering online blog into a selective guide to his home patch. East London, finely designed by Pentagram and replete with phone photos, centres on the writer's watchful, acute observations of change'
Architecture Today

'Charles Saumarez Smith has lived in east London since the early 1980s. His book, unlike most about the capital's creative hub, excoriates the hip veneer of the area to expose its history … through pumping stations, walkways and the stories behind faded shop signs'

'A photographic tour of impressionistic images and laconic text that perfectly convey the strange mixture of the Dickensian and the contemporary that is the East End of London'
The Tablet

'Personal, nostalgic and light, these are clearly the notes and snaps of a figure (the director of the Royal Academy) who profoundly enjoys being in the city'
Financial Times

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps with a jacket

Size: 22.3 x 14.7 cm

Extent: 352 pp

Illustrations: 400

Publication date: 27 April 2017

ISBN: 9780500519554

About the Author

Charles Saumarez Smith CBE has been Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts since 2007, and is also Visiting Professor of Cultural History at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of The Company of Artists: The Origins of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and The National Gallery: A Short History.