William Pimlott (UCL) - 2017-18 Students

Yiddish in Britain: Immigration, Culture and the East End

At the end of the 19th Century and at the beginning of the 20th Century approximately 120, 000 Jews from Eastern Europe migrated to London. This community produced a wealth of documents in the Yiddish language: newspapers (hundreds, some daily, some weekly), literary journals, novels, poetry, gallery documents and theatre documentation. The scholarship that has examined this community and has used its own writings in the Yiddish language as sources, has focused almost exclusively on its connection to radical politics and the theatre. The writing and cultural production of these immigrants themselves, and how they articulated their experience of Britain and of immigration in these years has been seriously under-researched. Building on my MA research into the Yiddish literary and artistic journal Renesans, written and published in London’s East End in 1920, this PHD project aims to examine these lost perspectives to produce a critical cultural history of this immigrant community’s experience of immigration and its associated issues: anti-semitism, ghettoisation and assimilation.

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