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.
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 at Bruce Castle. ) Tottenham remained a semi-rural and upper middle class area until the 1870s.
Tottenham was at the centre of a local administrative area from the medieval period until 1965. The administrative area developed from a parish in Middlesex into an Urban sanitary district in 1875, after a local board of health had been established in 1850. It was then divided in 1888 and Wood Green became a separate authority. In 1894, Tottenham was reconstituted first as an urban district then as a municipal borough in 1934. Under the Local Government Act 1963, it became part of the larger London Borough of Haringey. The Tottenham neighbourhood is now one of twenty neighbourhoods in Haringey.
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.
Tottenham is the biggest part of the parliamentary constituency of Tottenham. The constituency was created in 1885 when the first MP was Joseph Howard of the Conservative Party. The boundaries were redrawn in 1918, and Tottenham was divided into two separate constituencies: Tottenham North and Tottenham South. Since being reinstated in 1950, it has been predominantly represented by MPs from the Labour Party, with the exception of Alan Brown who defected to the Conservatives due to disagreement with the Labour Party's defence policy at the time. The current MP is David Lammy who won a by-election in 2000 following the death of Bernie Grant.
In 1894, Tottenham was made an urban district and on 27 September 1934 it became a municipal borough. As from 1 April 1965, the municipal borough formed part of the London Borough of Haringey together with Hornsey and Wood Green.
An incident occurred on 23 January 1909, which was at the time known as the Tottenham Outrage. Two armed robbers, Latvian Jews 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.
In 1999, Tottenham was identified as one of the yardies' strongholds in London, along with Hackney, Harlesden, Peckham and Brixton.
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.
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.
Tottenham is the home of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur. From 1899 until 2017, the club's home ground was White Hart Lane. In 2017, White Hart Lane ground closed and demolition commenced to make way for a new stadium on the same site, known as the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as part of a wider project for the redevelopment of the area. The new stadium was due to open in September 2018, but was delayed until later in the 2018-19 season. The stadium was opened on 3 April 2019. For the 2017-18 season and most of the 2018-19 season, the club played their home games at Wembley.