Gray, D. (2011) Contextualising the Ripper murders: poverty, crime and unrest in the East End of London, 1888. Invited Keynote presented to: Jack the Ripper Through a Wider Lens: An Interdisciplinary Conference, Bossone Research Enterprise Center, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA, 28-29 October 2011.
This paper will take a broad look at the underlying problems associated with the East End of London in the period immediately before and during the Whitechapel murders. Using both contemporary and more recent histories this paper will explore attitudes towards poverty and prostitution, immigration and social unrest and consider the extent to which the brutal murders of five or more prostitutes highlighted concerns that had existed for some time. The murders and the area have been subject to considerable myth-making in the century or more since the ‘Ripper’ carried out his crimes, this paper will attempt to look beyond the myth and uncover the reality of life in one of the most demonised corners of the British empire.