Jack the Ripper's London: Myth, Reality and the Victorian Metropolis

University of Westminster

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Jack the Ripper's London: Myth, Reality and the Victorian Metropolis

  • Host University

    University of Westminster

  • Location

    London, England

  • Area of Study

    Criminology, European Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • UK Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    Class Level: 4
    Site: Central London
    Assessment: 50 % Coursework, 50% Exam

    The Ripper murders; social history of the East End; London in the late Victorian era; the representation of the killings in the media, in film and literature; the historiography of the Ripper murders.

    The class aims to provide the student with an informed understanding of the social, cultural and economic context of the Whitechapel murders that occurred in the 1880s.
    Assessing the wider history of Victorian London, and focusing upon the 1880s in particular, students will learn about class, poverty, wealth, religion and culture in late Victorian London. Students will also learn about the Ripper murders and their effects in the metropolis, and consider why the murders continue to exercise fascination to this day.

    By the end of the class students are expected to be able to:
    1* show knowledge and understanding of the main social, cultural and economic characteristics of late Victorian London ;
    2* demonstrate awareness of the immediate myths and representations attaching to the Jack the Ripper murders;
    3* begin to recognise the complexity of historical processes and relationships at work in interpretations of historical events;
    4* make use of theoretical concepts as tools of historical understanding;
    5* utilise and interpret primary historical sources, considering their reliability, value and significance;
    6* use historical evidence and argument, to reach and support reasonable conclusions;
    7* communicate effectively in written English, using recognised academic apparatus.

    The class addresses a number of significant issues and episodes in the history of late Victorian London and the Ripper murders, including:
    - wealth and poverty;
    - London as an imperial city;
    - the social geography of London and class relations;
    - the economy of Victorian London;
    - the nature and impact of the Ripper murders;
    - representations of the murders then and since.

    The class is delivered via lectures, seminars and field walks. Lectures give the essential framework for the class by providing key knowledge and interpretation upon which students are expected to build with their own reading. Seminars allow informal student-led discussion of the issues raised in lectures, opportunities for supervised group work and are also used to allow practice in the key skills of interpretation and analysis of primary historical sources.

    The class is assessed via coursework and a two-hour seen exam.
    Coursework consists of a group presentation. You will each speak for 5 minutes, and provide an individual written report on your research.
    In the examination, students will answer two essay questions and attempt a documentary analysis exercise. Documents are provided in advance of the examination, and students will choose one.
    Assessment is designed to allow students to demonstrate their acquired knowledge and understanding of late Victorian London and the context for the Ripper atrocities. In addition, it is intended to allow students to demonstrate the key skills of literacy and ability to argue a case, of historical interpretation and analysis, of synthesis and evaluation of evidence and the use of primary historical sources. Students will also demonstrate their ability to communicate knowledge and understanding in a time-constrained environment.

    The assessment scheme consists of coursework and an examination as follows:
    * group presentation (20%) and individual report (30%)
    * examination: document analysis and exam questions (50%)

    There is a vast literature which might usefully be consulted by students, and what follows is an indicative bibliography only which provides an entry into the historiography. More secondary sources are available in the library, but you are advised to use other university libraries where appropriate.
    Recommended reading on London
    Ackroyd, P. London: The Biography (2002)
    Englander D. and O?Day R. Retrieved Riches: Social Investigation in Britain, 1840 -1914 (1995)
    Fishman B. East End 1888 (1988)
    Greenwood J. The Seven Curses of London (1981 edn.)
    Inwood, S. A History of London (1998); City of Cities: London 1870-1914 (2005)
    Jones, G. S. Outcast London (1971)
    Porter, R. London: A Social History (1994)
    Rodger R. and Morris, R. J. The Victorian City: A Reader in British Urban History, 1820-1914 (1993)
    Samuel R. East End Underworld: Chapters in the Life of Arthur Harding (1981)
    White, Jerry Nineteenth Century London (2007)

    Recommended reading on Jack the Ripper
    Please be warned: there is a large and expanding literature on the Ripper murders, some of it scholarly and well-informed, but much of it salacious and mostly concerned with ?discovering? who the Ripper really was. Below is a selection of the best work (though Cornwell is a little exaggerated):
    Ackroyd P. 'Introduction' in Jack the Ripper and the East End (2008)
    Begg P. Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History (2002)
    Creaton H. ?Recent scholarship on Jack the Ripper and the Victorian Media?

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Some courses may require additional fees.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.


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