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In short, the edu- cated elite of Mayfair, Knightsbridge, and Kensington were not at all sur- prised that these homicidal horrors were taking place in Whitechapel.

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Condemned to sharing single rooms, these families were forced to scrounge for menial work when the Huguenot-dominated silk-weaving industry around Fournier Street started to decline. At the same time, the gulf between rich and poor steadily widened. So too did the sense of contrast between the two Ends of London, which had the effect of eliding central London in the collective imagination. To begin, its population is a strange amalgamation of Jews, English, French, Germans, and other antagonistic elements that must clash and jar, but not to such an extent as has been surmised and reported.

By the number of Jews living in Tower Ham- lets had climbed to 45, out of a total population of some ,, and many more were on their way.

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If most Londoners took inordinate pride in their modern Rome and hailed it as the epicenter of the greatest and richest empire the world had ever known, some pessimists saw the metropolis as overcrowded, unhealthy, and oppressive. Moreover, darkness also connoted chronic dirt, disease, drunkenness, crime, violence, pollution, pauperism, and overcrowding, all of which contributed to high infant mortality rates and physical and sexual abuse.

Clearly London was far too big and complex a social organization to be contained by a single trope. London offered spectators a bewildering variety of people, activities, goods, moods, and cityscapes. Hyde can be read as an extended metaphor for a deeply divided city, wherein the forces of reason, civility, and learning are pitted against those of animal passion and violence. Along with good intentions they carried a fair share of class and racial prejudice. These prejudices owed much to sheer ignorance of conditions in the rookeries and back alleys or wynds of Tower Hamlets.

As the Daily Telegraph declared Oct. With much help from the crusading journalist W. Civilisation, which can breed its own barbarians, does it not also breed its own pygmies?

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And he appealed to readers to give generously toward these goals. Besides indulging in the jungle trope, some late-Victorian reformers cherished sewer or midden metaphors when seeking to epitomize White- chapel and environs. At the same time, moral- istic reformers like the Rev.

Andrew Mearns, W. Stead, the Rev. Sidney Godolphin Osborne, and General Booth binarized their urban world into zones of light and darkness, cleanliness and dirt, safety and danger, virtue and vice. In their febrile imaginations all the drainpipes and sewers of the metropolis seemed to empty into the East End. The tendency of respectable Victorians to compare the dregs of the East End—or what they called with heavy irony and euphemism the residuum—to apes, pigs, rats, and dogs deepened the already profound gulf between the classes and the two Ends of London.


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By gathering reams of data about the earn- ings, expenses, and hardships of the inhabitants of every street and square, he sought to raise that curtain and reveal how people actually managed to survive. Even so, Whitechapel had the largest number of paupers, casual workers, and semi-criminals in all of Tower Hamlets, at 3.

And yet St. He wanted to see the poorest families resettled in industrial communities outside the slums; and if this did not appeal, then there was always the route of assisted emigration. Even the cats were starving. In sum, dark blue, pink, and purple predominated behind the main ave- nues, with only the occasional blotch of black signifying the worst slum areas. This deep spatial and cultural division was reinforced in by the publication of the Rev.

Stead touted enthusiastically. Most of the early suspects in the Ripper slayings fell into this category. Although most of the refugees from persecution in Eastern Eu- rope spoke little or no English upon arrival, many managed to climb up and out of poverty through shrewd selling of goods and services. The palpable success of Jewish tradesmen, sweatshop owners, moneylenders, and pawn- brokers stirred the envy of many gentiles, especially those who had to borrow money at high interest rates.

Struggling with a new language and an alien culture, these foreigners often had to contend with cruel ethnic or racial gibes. Only a few of the long-term under- employed and unemployed in the East End ever succeeded in climbing out of the deep trough of debt, despair, and alcoholism into which they had fallen. The chronic poverty of such workers moved some social reformers to promote assisted emigration as the only way to alleviate their misery. While the population of central London slowly declined in the s, the periph- ery grew steadily.

Between and , the number of residents of central London fell by In his panoramic survey of Tower Hamlets in , Fishman deliberately blurs the distinction between image and reality. A grinning Hottentot elbows his way through a crowd of long-eyed Jew- esses. An Algerian merchant walks arm-in-arm with a native of Calcutta.

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A little Italian plays pitch-and-toss with a small Russian. A Polish Jew enjoys sauer-kraut with a German Gentile. And among the foreigners lounges the East End loafer, monarch of all he surveys, lord of the premises. Even more colorful were the street actors, buskers, and puppeteers. As Stedman Jones has observed, the domestic comedy of the plebeian music hall contributed much to working-class consciousness in late Vic- torian London.

The founding of Toynbee Hall in gave Whitechapel a vital center for the evangelical impulses that had driven missionaries into the East End seeking to rescue lost souls from the demons of drink, prostitution, and violence. Samuel Barnett, rector of St. This book described a close-knit plebeian community where people knew each other only too well and where family feuding turned into tribal wars involving women and children as well as men. One byproduct of the Whitechapel murders was a renewed demand by the social-purity lobby to stamp out prostitution.

Since prostitution in itself was not a crime, a policeman could arrest a woman only for soliciting or be- ing disorderly—charges not so easily proven in a court of law. In addition, some prostitutes enjoyed a cozy relationship with the local constabulary, to whom they handed out sexual favors or bribes.

They found it far harder to avoid alcoholism and venereal disease. Moreover, the police rarely hassled the pimps or ponces who lived off the earnings of the women under their control. Most owners and operators of the lodging houses serving as brothels withstood the forces of the social-purity lobby until the arrival of Frederick Charrington. This courageous crusader, a scion of a rich brewing family, launched a one-man campaign against brothel keepers at some risk to his own safety.


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Another extended troping of the East End occurred in , when the American writer Jack London, a man of working-class origins and socialist sympathies, set forth on an expedition into a region that his friends re- garded as wholly foreign and dangerous. There were no swelling muscles, no abundant thews and wide-spreading shoulders. They exhibited, rather, an elemental economy of nature, such as the cave-men must have exhibited.

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But there was strength in those meagre bodies, the ferocious primordial strength to clutch and gripe [sic] and tear and rend. When they spring upon their human prey they are known even to bend the victim backward and double its body till the back is broken. The streets and houses, alleys and courts, are their hunting grounds. The slum is their jungle, and they live and prey in the jungle. Imbued with skepticism, we focus on the special interests and ideological leanings of the press corps and the moguls who dominate the mass media. Moreover, the prominent news stories or feature articles in newspapers constantly reinscribe the dominant values governing normative behavior.

Our contextualization of Ripper news begins with some general obser- vations about the nature of news reporting and its relation to the dominant values of society. Thus journalists do not simply entertain readers with tales of crime, scandal, or sports, but wield real power.

Their landmark work Policing the Crisis examined in detail the responses of the British public, press, and judiciary to some vicious muggings a term imported from America that had occurred in Birmingham, London, and other cities in — Aware that they had no easy answers to the inequities that had produced such crimes, they laid out in great detail how repressive forces within society and the state were mobilized so as to ensure the triumph of law and order over what was construed as anarchy or thuggery.

As soon as the media feature stories of ran- dom violence or street crime, the public starts to worry about the risk to their own lives and valuables. In this way law-and-order news plays into the hands of reactionary politicians in need of votes who condemn lax moral standards and lobby for more police repression.

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Crime waves are thus constructed by people who fear the erosion of traditional values and see gratuitous violence at every turn. No mat- ter how hard reporters may work to capture what they consider the reality of any given event, what actually appears in print is the result of much selecting and editing. Therefore they must practice a form of triage, choosing the stories deemed worthy of notice and deciding on the appropriate number of column inches and the placement of the article on a given page.

Although these radical critics were writing at a time of profound aliena- tion from the capitalist state as well as anger at the so-called Establishment, their strictures about the nature of crime news cannot simply be dismissed as the product of an outmoded or naive political protest.

Much of what Chibnall, Hall and his colleagues, and Box had to say about the con- struction of crime news in the s applies to both today and yesterday— notably, to late Victorian journalism. The Ripper murders prompted some papers to promote a moral and social panic far greater than the alarm raised over the garroting or mugging of a few gentlemen in the West End in , when the right-wing press and several Tory members of Parliament orchestrated a crime wave by turning several minor assaults into a threat to life and limb all over the metropolis.

The alarm over garroting resulted in a severe crackdown by the police, who arrested more suspects between July and December of than they had in the whole previous year.

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During November, twenty-three men charged with garroting were tried and convicted at the Old Bailey. In February , small bands of roving rioters looted shops in St. More than a year later, on Sunday, November 13, , thousands of un- employed and casual workers marched from Tower Hamlets to Trafalgar Square, resolved to hold another mass rally.

In a bullish mood, the Times Nov.