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The Life of Arthur Harding

Arthur Harding was born in the notoriously poor area of London called ‘The Nichol’. His life story gives a vivid insight into the lives of people like him who lived beneath a terrible burden of poverty. It provides an illuminating insight into many of the major social issues of the time, including depravity, crime, homelessness and gang violence, all of which still hold a particular resonance today.

Until 1981, The Nichol had generally been portrayed in a rather distant and vilifying way throughout the associated literature. A more truthful account only started to transpire once the historian Raphael Samuel started to interview Arthur. Over a period of five years, Arthur gave Samuel a direct window into the life and times of all the people in The Nichol and South-West Bethnal Green area, leading to Samuel subsequently writing a book called East End Underworld. The book is effectively an autobiography since it is comprised wholly of direct quotes from the interviews with Arthur Harding, but it was compiled and structured by Samuel.

East End Underworld The project also offered Raphael Samuel a chance to investigate areas which fascinated him throughout his life and career. As a pioneer of ‘public’ history, or ‘history from below’, this was an opportunity, which many thought lost, to talk face-to-face with living history from one of the East End’s most notorious and vilified areas. Samuel was motivated to interview Arthur to provide a resource for future generations of historians and leave a complete record of Harding’s life which was closely intertwined with social and economic developments in this important and historical area of London.

This online resource charts Arthur Harding’s life from birth until death, following the course of Arthur’s life from his upbringing in The Nichol, through his involvement in the East End underworld of gangsters and criminals, to his eventual rehabilitation and marriage. The main source of information was taken from Raphael Samuel’s book East End Underworld, along with various extracts taken from the oral accounts which Samuel used in its compilation.

     

    This resource presents Arthur's life in a broadly chronological framework, illustrated with photographs, documents, sound clips and other material held with the Raphael Samuel Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute .There are links on the main pages which will take you to accounts of people, places or events, enabling you to explore different areas of Arthur's story in greater depth.

    This resource presents Arthur's life in a broadly chronological framework, illustrated with photographs, documents, sound clips and other material held with the Raphael Samuel Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute .There are links on the main pages which will take you to accounts of people, places or events, enabling you to explore different areas of Arthur's story in greater depth.

    This resource was written and compiled by Jonathan Carstairs.
    Part of the Step Enterprise Innovation Placement Programme, supported by London Development Agency and administered by Goldsmiths University.

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