Tottenham is believed to have been named after Tota, a farmer, whose hamlet was mentioned in the Domesday Book. 'Tota's hamlet', it is thought, developed into 'Tottenham'. The settlement was recorded in the Domesday Book as Toteham. It is not related to Tottenham Court Road in Central London, though the two names share a similar-sounding root.
When the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, about 70 families lived within the area of the manor, mostly labourers working for the Lord of the Manor. A humorous poem entitled the Tournament of Tottenham, written around 1400, describes a mock-battle between peasants vying for the reeve's daughter.
The River Lea (or Lee) was the eastern boundary between the Municipal Boroughs of Tottenham and Walthamstow. It is the ancient boundary between Middlesex and Essex and also formed the western boundary of the Viking controlled Danelaw. Today it is the boundary between the London Boroughs of Haringey and Waltham Forest. A major tributary of the Lea, the River Moselle, also crosses the borough from west to east, and often caused serious flooding until it was mostly covered in the 19th century.
From the Tudor period onwards, Tottenham became a popular recreation and leisure destination for wealthy Londoners. Henry VIII is known to have visited Bruce Castle and also hunted in Tottenham Wood. A rural Tottenham also featured in Izaak Walton's book The Compleat Angler, published in 1653. The area became noted for its large Quaker population and its schools (including Rowland Hill's at Bruce Castle.) Tottenham remained a semi-rural and upper middle class area until the 1870s.
In late 1870, the Great Eastern Railway introduced special workman's trains and fares on its newly opened Enfield and Walthamstow branch lines. Tottenham's low-lying fields and market gardens were then rapidly transformed into cheap housing for the lower middle and working classes, who were able to commute cheaply to inner London. The workman's fare policy stimulated the relatively early development of the area into a London suburb.
An incident occurred on 23 January 1909, which was at the time known as the Tottenham Outrage. Two armed robbers of Russian extraction held up the wages clerk of a rubber works in Chesnut Road. They made their getaway via Tottenham Marshes and fled across the Lea. On the opposite bank of the river they hijacked a Walthamstow Corporation tramcar, hotly pursued by the police on another tram. The hijacked tram was stopped but the robbers continued their flight on foot. After firing their weapons and killing two people, Ralph Joscelyne, aged 10, and PC William Tyler, they were eventually cornered by the police and shot themselves rather than be captured. Fourteen other people were wounded during the chase. The incident later became the subject of a silent film.
During the Second World War Tottenham was one of the many targets of the German air offensive against Britain. Bombs fell in the borough (Elmar Road) during the first air raid on London on 24 August 1940. The borough also received V-1 (four incidents) and V-2 hits, the last of which occurred on 15 March 1945. Wartime shortages led to the creation of Tottenham Pudding, a mixture of household waste food which was converted into feeding stuffs for pigs and poultry. The "pudding" was named by Queen Mary on a visit to Tottenham Refuse Works. Production continued into the post-war period, its demise coinciding with the merging of the borough into the new London Borough of Haringey.
The Broadwater Farm riot occurred around the Broadwater Farm Estate on 6 October 1985 following the death of Cynthia Jarrett. Jarrett was a resident of Tottenham who lived about a mile from the estate, who died of heart failure during a police search of her home. The tension between local black youths and the largely white Metropolitan Police had been high due to a combination of local issues and the aftermath of riots in Brixton which had occurred in the previous week. The response of some of the black community in Tottenham and surrounding areas culminated in a riot beginning on Tottenham High Road and ending in Broadwater Farm Estate. One police officer, Keith Blakelock, was murdered; 58 policemen and 24 other people were injured in the fighting. Two of the policemen were injured by gunshots during the riot, the first time that firearms had been used in that type of confrontation.
The 2011 Tottenham riots were a series of riots precipitated by the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old man in Tottenham, by officers of the Metropolitan Police Service on 4 August 2011.[clarification needed] Attacks were carried out on two police cars, a bus, a Post Office and several local shops from 8:00pm onwards on 6 August 2011. Riot police vans attended the scene of disturbances on Tottenham High Road. Later in the evening the riot spread, with an Aldi supermarket and a branch of Allied Carpets also destroyed by fire, and widespread looting in nearby Wood Green shopping centre and the retail park at Tottenham Hale. Several flats above shops on Tottenham High Road collapsed due to the fires. 26 shared ownership flats in the Union Point development above the Carpetright store - built in the landmark Cooperative department store building - were also completely destroyed by fire. The triggering event was when a group of over one hundred local Tottenham residents set out to undertake a protest march against the killing of Mark Duggan, who was shot by police officers assigned to Operation Trident earlier in the week. The circumstances surrounding Duggan's death were not entirely clear at the time of the riot. On 17 August 2011, the Prince of Wales and his wife Duchess of Cornwall visited an emergency centre to meet victims of the riots.
Because of Tottenham's long history as borough, the Tottenham name is used by some to this day to describe the whole of the area formerly covered by the old borough, incorporating the N17 postcode area and part of N15 . However, there are differing views as to what constitutes the Tottenham neighbourhood in the present day. Many think of Tottenham today as most of the area covered by the N17 post code, sometimes using the phrase 'Tottenham Proper' to describe it and to distinguish it from the other parts of the old borough.
A claim made by MP David Lammy in 2011, indicated that at that time Tottenham had the highest unemployment rate in London and the eighth highest in the United Kingdom, and it had some of the highest poverty rates within the country.
In the 2011 UK Census, the ethnic composition of the Tottenham constituency, of which Tottenham is a large part, was as follows:
22.3% White British
27.7% Other White
Tottenham has been one of the main hotspots for gangs and gun crime in the United Kingdom during the past three decades. This followed the rise of gangs and drug wars throughout the area, notably those involving the Tottenham Mandem gang and various gangs from Hackney and all of the areas surrounding Tottenham, and the emergence of an organised crime ring known as the Turkish mafia was said to have controlled more than 90% of the UK's heroin market.
Edmanson's Close - Previously known as the Almshouses of the Drapers' Company, they were built in 1870 and were established through the generosity of three seventeenth-century benefactors, Sir John Jolles, John Pemel and John Edmanson.
High Cross - Erected sometime between 1600 and 1609 on the site of an earlier Christian cross, although there is some speculation that the first structure on the site was a Roman beacon or marker, situated on a low summit on Ermine Street. Tottenham High Cross is often mistakenly thought to be an Eleanor cross.
Northumberland Row - Erected circa 1740 on the site of the former Smithson seat, previously that of the Hynningham family. The gate piers are possibly from Bruce Castle. The wrought iron gate bears the monogram HS for one of the two Hugh Smithsons, both Tottenham landowners and sometime MPs for Middlesex.
Tottenham cake is a sponge cake baked in large metal trays, covered either in pink icing or jam (and occasionally decorated with shredded desiccated coconut). Tottenham Cake "was originally sold by the baker Henry Chalkley from 1901, who was a Friend (or Quaker), at the price of one old penny, with smaller mis-shaped pieces sold for half an old penny." The pink colouring was derived from mulberries found growing at the Tottenham Friends burial ground. Originally "a peculiar local invention" of north London, the cake is now mass-produced by the Percy Ingle chain of bakers.  The cake featured on The Great British Bake Off TV programme broadcast Tuesday 17 September 2013 on BBC2.