Julian Woodford uncovers the breathtakingly appalling life of Joseph Merceron (1764–1839), gangster and corrupt magistrate, who accumulated enormous wealth while presiding over the creation of the poorest slums in Georgian London.
Ruling Spitalfields and Bethnal Green from his base in Brick Lane for half a century, Merceron gave the East End the bad reputation that still lingers today, while the exploits of recent mobsters and political miscreants pale by comparison with his staggering violence and ruthlessness.
Julian Woodford’s shrewd biography, the first on this subject, is essential reading for all those interested in eighteenth century London, anyone fascinated by the capital’s criminal history and everyone who loves an exciting true story well told.
“…more than just a picture of a narcissistic personality with no regard whatsoever for the truth, interesting and apposite to our own times though that may be. The author has understood the wider social crisis underlying the chaos… This is a fine book…deserves to become a standard work on a London district which is still, today, subject to several sorts of threat…” – Gillian Tindall, TLS.
“…a most handsome ‘life and times’ biography, which shows just what the historians have been missing… Julian Woodford has done an extraordinary job in teasing out what it is possible to know about his subject… as an exercise in retrieving the irretrievable, Woodford’s Boss of Bethnal Green could hardly be bettered.” – Jerry White, The Times.
“[Merceron] operated out of Brick Lane like a prototype Kray brother. His ruthless greed and thirst for power are described with real narrative verve and a suitably appalled eye.” – Evening Standard, Best London books of 2016.
“Apart from being a superb and informative read, the book is very nicely constructed. Beautifully designed and peppered with well-chosen photos, illustrations and portraits, all where they belong in relation to the text… a fascinating and impeccably-researched account. It is sensational without being sensationalist, which is what makes it such a gripping read. It’s everything an accessible history book should be and I commend it to you.” – London Historians, Best Books 2016.
“Ten years in the making, The Boss of Bethnal Green is essential reading for anyone interested in the criminal and political histories of our city, and how the two interweave.” – Hackney Citizen.
Interested in learning more about Newham Bookshop and some of the people connected with it? We have four lessons for classroom or family use developed from On the Record’s oral history project centered around Newham Bookshop, Writing and Reading Newham. Click here for full details.
We are proud that Newham Bookshop is LoveReading’s Bookshop of the Month. The article features a Q&A with Vivian Archer, which you can read here.