East London is the northeastern part of London, United Kingdom. Although without an official definition, the concept of a section of London to the east of the City of London has its origins in 1720 as "That Part Beyond the Tower". By 1950 it was explicitly called East London and was considered to include all of Greater London east of the City of London and north of the River Thames. This area now comprises the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
The East End of London is a subset of East London, corresponding to areas closer to the ancient City. The early development of London eastward was caused by the expansion of industries associated with the River Thames, such as ship building and the docks. Because these industries declined in the later part of the 20th century, East London is now an area of regeneration. In the London Docklands this has reached advanced stages, but in the sections of East London that are within the Thames Gateway it is continuing, such as the redevelopment in Stratford associated with the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Areas further east developed in the Victorian and Edwardian eras following the expansion of the railways in the 19th century. Development of suburban houses for private sale was later matched by the provision of large scale social housing at Becontree in the 1920s and Harold Hill after the Second World War. However, the urban footprint was constrained in 1878 by the protection of Epping Forest and later the implementation of the Metropolitan Green Belt. The density of development increased during the interwar period and new industries developed such as Ford at Dagenham. In Tower Hamlets the population peaked in 1891 and growth was restricted to the outer boroughs. By 1971 the population had peaked in every borough and the entire area was experiencing population decline. As of the 2011 census this has reversed and every borough has experienced some growth in population.
The etymology of London is uncertain, but is known to be an ancient name. The concept of East London as a distinct area is a relatively recent innovation. John Strype's map of 1720 describes London as consisting of four parts: The City of London, Westminster, Southwark and "That Part Beyond the Tower". From the late 19th century the term East End of London was used to describe areas immediately adjacent to the City in the Tower division of Middlesex. Charles Booth in 1889 defined East London as the County of London between the City and the River Lea. In 1902 he now considered this area to be the 'true East End' and his attention had been drawn eastward over the Lea into the Borough of West Ham—then outside London in Essex but under the authority of neither—and termed London-over-the-Border by Charles Dickens in 1857. Walter Besant described East London as an area north of the Thames and east of the City that stretched as far as Chingford and Epping Forest, which was similar to the definition used by Robert Sinclair in 1950 that stretched east to include Barking and Dagenham. This broadly matched the Metropolitan Police District east of the city and north of the Thames at that time, and now corresponds to the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest in Greater London.
Until about 1700 London was physically confined to the walled boundaries of the City of London. However, the population in the parishes to the east of the City was rising and this was reflected by the need to break up the large ancient parish of Stepney into smaller units to provide adequate religious and civil administration; and the creation of the Tower division of Middlesex. It was the industries associated with the River Thames that encouraged growth in the east, and by 1650 Shadwell was a developed maritime settlement. The docks in Tower Hamlets started to reach capacity in the early 19th century and in 1855 the Royal Victoria Dock was opened in Newham.
The majority of the rail network in East London was built within fifty years from 1839. The first through the area was the Eastern Counties Railway from Mile End to Romford, extended to Shoreditch in 1840. The London and Blackwall Railway built a line from Minories to Blackwall the same year and the Northern and Eastern Railway connected Lea Bridge and Tottenham with the Eastern Counties at Stratford. The Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway started passenger service on their line from Stratford to Canning Town, Custom House and North Woolwich in 1847. This made Stratford a significant railway junction and location of railway works. The East & West India Docks & Birmingham Junction Railway connected Kingsland with Bow and Poplar in 1850 and was renamed North London Railway in 1853. In 1854 the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway connected Forest Gate on the Eastern Counties with Barking and Rainham. The East London Railway was opened in 1869. The Great Eastern Railway connected Lea Bridge with Walthamstow in 1870, and in 1872 built a connection from the Eastern Counties line at Bethnal Green to Hackney Downs. This was connected to the Walthamstow line in 1873 and extended to Chingford. The London and Blackwall built an extension to Millwall and North Greenwich on the Isle of Dogs in 1872 and the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway was extended to Beckton in 1873, and Gallions in 1880. The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway connected Barking with Dagenham, Hornchurch and Upminster in 1885, and Romford with Upminster in 1893. The final piece of original railway works was the construction of the Great Eastern loop line to connect Woodford with Ilford via Fairlop in 1903.
The population change between 1801 and 2001 was as follows: