Exorcising a demon?: Why History needs to engage with the Whitechapel Murders and dispel the myth of ‘Jack the Ripper’

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle

Abstract

This article reflects on the current paucity of academic research into the Whitechapel Murders of 1888. Notably it suggests that there has been a tendency for historians of crime in particular to ignore the case and it argues that this has created an unwanted vacuum that has been filled (and exploited) by amateur history and the entertainment industry. This has consequences for how the public view both the murders and the killer, and the entire late Victorian period. The cultural phenomenon of ‘Jack the Ripper’ has been allowed to emerge as a result of this lack of academic engagement and this fuels an industry that continues to portray the murderer, the murdered and the area in which these killings occurred in a manner that does a terrible and ongoing disservice to the women that were so brutally killed. Moreover, the ‘celebration’ of the unknown killer has provided a role model for subsequent misogynist serial murderers and abusers. This article argues that it is time for historians of crime address this situation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHumanities
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018

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History
Murder
Murderers
Historian
Demons
Crime
Industry
Late-Victorian
Misogynist
Entertainment Industry
Cultural Phenomena
Victorian Period
Killing
Academic Research
Amateur

Keywords

  • Jack the Ripper
  • Crime History
  • History
  • Public History
  • Mythology
  • Ripperology

Cite this

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abstract = "This article reflects on the current paucity of academic research into the Whitechapel Murders of 1888. Notably it suggests that there has been a tendency for historians of crime in particular to ignore the case and it argues that this has created an unwanted vacuum that has been filled (and exploited) by amateur history and the entertainment industry. This has consequences for how the public view both the murders and the killer, and the entire late Victorian period. The cultural phenomenon of ‘Jack the Ripper’ has been allowed to emerge as a result of this lack of academic engagement and this fuels an industry that continues to portray the murderer, the murdered and the area in which these killings occurred in a manner that does a terrible and ongoing disservice to the women that were so brutally killed. Moreover, the ‘celebration’ of the unknown killer has provided a role model for subsequent misogynist serial murderers and abusers. This article argues that it is time for historians of crime address this situation.",
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