Jack the Ripper – A Force For Change

The fact that the Jack the Ripper Murders occurred in one of the poorest quarters of Victorian London meant that, for a period of about fifteen weeks in 1888, the plight 0f the city’s poor was reported in newspapers all over the world.

Some of the news coverage was salacious and intended to sell as many newspapers as possible. But other journalists were appalled at the conditions that they found when they went to investigate the streets wehere the murders were occurring. As a result of the press coverage we have an unrivalled opportunity to look back at the ordinary everyday people who lived in the area throughout the autumn of 1888.

The newspaper reporting also highlighted the nomadic lives that the victims of Jack the Ripper led. The majority of them it seems had simply fallen through the cracks of Victorian society and ended up on the Streets of East London in an age before there was a welfare state in place. All the victims were alchololics whose lives had fallen apart as a result of their fondness for and dependence on drink.

The Jack the Ripper murders drew attention to the lives of the degraded poor and, in so doing, brought about a call for social change. This, in turn, saw the philanthropically minded head for the East End of London and attempts were made to ease the horrific social conditions that the Ripper murders had, to an extent, highlighted.

The fact that the ripper murders had such an impact led George Bernard Shaw to observe, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, that the motive for the murders had been to atttract notice to the conditions in the area and, in so doing, bring about the social change that more conventional means had failed to do!