Foreign sailors and working-class communities: race, crime and moral panics in London’s Sailortown, 1880-1914

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


For nineteenth century social commentators, the seafarer ashore crossed significant bourgeois boundaries that defined and maintained “good citizenship”; he was profligate, licentious, and nomadic. With these perceived characteristics, sailors have been viewed by contemporary observers and historians as having little connection with urban working-class communities. Indeed, the dominant narrative was that the naïve sailor, unfamiliar with his urban surroundings, was taken advantage of by landlords, lending sharks, and prostitutes. This Chapter will argue that sailors were integrated both in the urban landscape and in the working-class communities that serviced sailortown. Indeed, those commentators who drew a clear demarcation between the interests of sailors and the interests of local working-class communities overlooked a robust gestalt urban-maritime culture. This gestalt culture was based on a micro-sailortown economy that serviced the maritime industry. This inter-dependency between sailors and locals in sailortown may have proved a significant factor in off-setting racial tensions that occurred in other parts of the East End during this period.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMigrants and the Making of the Urban-Maritime World
Subtitle of host publicationAgency and Mobility in Port Cities, c. 1570–1940
EditorsChristina Reimann, Martin Öhman
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781003088950
ISBN (Print)9780367543617
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Advances in Urban History


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