Jack The Ripper: London Killer

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For the greater part of human history, life involved hunting, gathering, hand-making goods and living in agricultural societies. For a long time, people were dependant on the access they have to food and basic human needs. During the 18th century, the process of urbanisation increased and manufacturing of goods became mechanicalised. Goods that had once been painstakingly crafted by hand started to be produced in mass quantities by machines in factories, thanks to the introduction of new machines and techniques in textiles, iron-making and other industries. Fueled by the game-changing use of steam power, the Industrial Revolution began in Britain and spread to the rest of the world. These innovations meant freedom for people, but also encouraged exploitation by ruthless industrialists.

Amid the Industrial Revolution, the population in Whitechapel, London – hit a peak. People were now having kids, not to make a family, but to put them into long hours of dangerous work for a source of income for the household. As a result of the rapid population growth, the lack of housing and facilities became a huge issue in an already crime ridden quarter. Housing shortages at this time lead to more homelessness making people vulnerable to the infamous killer, Jack the Ripper. The location of the East End was a place where violence and drunkenness was common. 7600 people lived in slums and the community had the highest death rate in England. In a country as wealthy as great Britain, it was hard to reconcile the living conditions in Whitechapel. Although most people knew Whitechapel and Spitalfields were not fashionable neighborhoods, few knew the extent of the poverty. Jack took advantage of the statistics and location of White Chapel and then proceeded to carry out his illegal activity.

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Women suffered dramatic social changes during the 18th to 19th century. The lack of adequate welfare for the poor and destitute had resulted in the majority of the victims being forced to lead transient lives and supplementing their livelihoods by resorting to prostitution. 73% of women turned to prostitution as a main source of income. Whitechapel alone was home to over 1200 prostitutes, many of which were often drunk and roamed the streets desperate for money very late at night, and in the early hours of the morning. To Jack’s convenience, he was able to pick out victims who were desperate to do anything for money so that they could pay their bare necessities. This meant they had little choice but to go with him into the dark corners of the badly lit backstreets where it was easy for Jack to murder his targets with little fear of interruption. Many of the streets where Jack carried out his attacks were not lit by light, making it easier for Jack to carry out his crimes and then to escape without being seen. Jack the Ripper was seen as an inevitable result of the appalling social conditions that had been allowed to fester, unchecked, in the districts of Whitechapel and Spitalfields for decades. The effects of women being belittled during this time which lead them to prostitution, meant that women were left immensely vunerable to Jack the Ripper’s attacks.

Based off of Jack the Ripper’s track record, he seemed to have an infatuation with the idea of murdering the prostitutes of Whitechapel. The Whitechapel murders were committed in or near the impoverished Whitechapel district in the East End of London between 3 April 1888 and 13 February 1891. Nobody knows for sure just how many victims the Ripper claimed, but his usual calling card came in the shape of a horrifically mutilated corpse. The murders created a scandal that struck right at the heart of the British establishment and for over 100 years, a mountain of research and countless books have attempted to unmask the elusive fiend – but to no avail. Jack the Ripper was believed to be an unremarkable middle-aged man and a resident of the Whitechapel area. It is understood that Jack knew the area, and the social injustice going on at the time. This helped when choosing his victims. He kept to himself, had no real close ties with people and his behaviour, although considered odd by those who knew him, would not be enough to arouse suspicion. His brutality and hatred lay buried beneath a mask of normality until he suffered from a low bout of self-esteem and on more than several occasions, gave way to murder. When faced with a criminal profile of the Ripper, it becomes clear why the police of 1888 were unable to catch him. They were searching for an obvious looking madman, but the real killer was quite the opposite. Authorities believed that Jack had a very high intelligence level, and used the negative aspects of the Industrial Revolution – such as the social inequalities – to his advantage. 

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