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Why had Whitechapel become an ideal hunting crowd for a serial killer by 1888?

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Presentation on theme: "Why had Whitechapel become an ideal hunting crowd for a serial killer by 1888?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Why had Whitechapel become an ideal hunting crowd for a serial killer by 1888?

2 A Man For His Times? Jack the Ripper was, in a macabre way, a man for his times. The turmoil of the Industrial Revolution in Britain upset the standard social order, generating new ambitions, conflicts, and frustrations. Urbanization, crowding, and change led to anomie and the creation of the alienated loner. Harsh and inhumane conditions, an indifference towards children, and a savage lifestyle all conspired to create an environment conducive to violence and sexual deviance. It is not surprising the psychological and social infrastructures of the nineteenth century produced the first modern serial killer.

3 Industrialisation The Industrial Revolution had been progressing for over 100 years and by 1888 some of its worst effects were being felt. The Industrial Revolution created overcrowded, polluted urban centres rife with crime and social problems. Most believe Jack the Ripper was ‘a local’ and if he was it had been brought up in a disordered, dangerous and dysfunctional community. There had been no examples of serial killing in pre industrial Britain when social life was based on, on small, personalised, self supporting agricultural communities. Psychologists have argued that serial killing is the living embodiment of modern industrial capitalist society, where, individualisation and personal satisfaction are everything. Sociologists have suggested that another important factor was the decline of religion with industrialisation with its rituals, structure, conformity, and belief in an after- life and a redeeming Godhead. Society had lost its core values and had nothing to replace them with..

4 Housing Many of the rookeries in Victorian London were demolished as a result of the Artisans Dwellings Act of 1875. This had been an attempt to get rid of the worst slum housing in much of Britain. But the slums of Whitechapel and Spitalfields survived and predictably endured an influx of criminals displaced by the city's urban renewal elsewhere. The late 1800s saw almost a million people dwelling in the slums east of Aldgate Pump; 4,000 houses in Whitechapel alone one year were condemned as uninhabitable, though little was done about it for years. Liquid sewage filled the cellars of houses and people kept their windows – those not yet broken – shut because of the stench from without. The majority of families, often up to nine people, lived in one room. Whitechapel developed a reputation for being deeply immoral. Incest was common in these crowded conditions, even amongst children as young as 10. Prostitution was common and seen as a normal way of earning money.

5 Living Conditions Many East End youth died before they were five. It would not be unusual for a mother to send her young children into the streets until after midnight, while she engaged in the business of prostitution to make sufficient money to feed them. Often children fell off their seats at school from exhaustion or cried from the pain of chronic starvation. Yet these unfortunates at least had a home. Many others slept on the streets or in dustbins, under stairways or bridges. Those who managed to scrape together enough money could rent a room in a lodging house, and such buildings held 8,500 nightly in Whitechapel. Within these doss houses flea-infested wallpaper hung in strips and stairway handrails were missing, long ago burnt for firewood. If you could not afford a straw mattress, two pence bought you the privilege of a place along a rope to lean against and sleep It is likely that such conditions were experienced by Jack the Ripper himself

6 Women in Whitechapel Women's work included scrubbing, sweatshop tailoring, hop picking, and sack or matchbox making, all with a complete lack of safety standards. Seventeen hours of backbreaking labour paid 10 pence, less the cost of materials. Prostitution was a viable alternative, paying anywhere from a loaf of stale bread to three pence. It was estimated that one woman in 16 engaged in this trade, for a total of 1,200 prostitutes in Whitechapel and 80,000 in London. Jack the Ripper’s attitude to women may in some way be explained by the roles women were forced by circumstances to undertake in 19 th century Whitechapel The close proximity of the London Docks also meant a steady stream of sailors willing to partake of the prostitutes of Whitechapel The environment in the slums of London was such that Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw commented, after the second of the Ripper killings, that perhaps “the murderer was a social reformer who wanted to draw attention to social conditions in the East End The conditions of the poor had been made worse by the well meaning Factory Act of 1833 which had banned the employment of young children and restricted the hours teenagers could work – poor families reliant on their children to contribute to a ’collective family wage’ were thereby made even more poor

7 Laissez faire The attitude of the government towards the economy and social issues had been throughout the 19 th century been one of ‘laissez faire’ or leave alone This was based on the ideas of the classical liberal Adam Smith who suggested that market forces would look after everyone and that it would be wrong for the government to intervene Consequently little was done to improve social conditions and there was no ‘benefit system’ at all other than subjecting yourself to the workhouse set up by the Poor Law amendment Act of 1839 The poor were desperate to avoid the prison like conditions of the workhouse and would do anything to remain outside of it

8 Geographical Factors The murders were all within a mile of each other, and the total hunting area was just over half a square mile in size. In 1998 a geographic profile was produced for the Jack the Ripper case based on body dump sites. The peak area of the geoprofile focused on the locale around Flower and Dean Street and Thrawl Street. Flower and Dean Street and Thrawl Street no longer exist as they used to, but in 1888 they lay between Commercial Street to the west and Brick Lane to the east, north of Whitechapel Road; during the time of the Whitechapel murders they contained several doss houses. Dorset Street lay less than two blocks to the north along Commercial Street. This was the vice-ridden neighbourhood that East End social reformers referred to as the “wicked quarter-mile” It appears that the notorious rookery played a key role in the Jack the Ripper mystery, and there is some supporting evidence for the geographic profile results. The Ripper was undoubtedly helped by the layout of the streets, the cramped conditions, large number of dark back alleys and general background of immorality, prostitution, extreme poverty and lawlessness. The Police were known to be unwilling to enter this area unaccompanied.

9 Immigration The proximity of the London docks meant that Whitechapel became the first port of call for many of London’s immigrants The first immigrants in the 19 th century were desperately poor Irish people escaping the potato famine of 1845 They were followed by considerable Jewish immigrations from Russia and Poland in the period 1860-1900 The steady stream of Jewish immigration of the first half of the 19th century began to gather pace in the second half and by 1881 had become a veritable flood. In Russia 1881 saw the assassination of Tsar Alexander, and this was followed by terrible pogroms in Kiev, Odessa and other cities. Mass immigration of Jews and other minorities persecuted in the Tsarist Empire began. This was fuelled over the next few years by increasing penal laws against Jews in Russia and reached a climax with the great pogrom of Kishinev in 1903. Many of these immigrants were ‘political refugees’ – Marxists and anarchists Ethnic tensions became particularly marked in the 1880’s when an economic recessions caused even greater unemployment and poverty in Whitechapel Quickly ‘locals’ began to blame the immigrants for the lack of jobs and shortage of housing…. In such an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion is was easy for Jack the Ripper to avoid detection

10 Alcoholism Each of Jack the Ripper’s 5 victims were alcoholics Rates of alcoholism were high and very strong drink ‘relatively’ cheap with pubs and gin houses on every corner In a life denuded of any luxury or comfort a large proportion of the population of Whitechapel simply ‘blotted out’ the awfulness of their lives by being perpetually drunk

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