Tag Archives: London

‘Jack the Ripper’ was a serial killer who disembowelled women — we need to stop celebrating that



File 20171018 32370 q2jo99.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

shutterstock

Charlotte Mallinson, University of Huddersfield

From ghost tours, to books, Halloween costumes to theatre productions – and even a museum – the Jack the Ripper industry is well and truly alive.

His is the name given to the unidentified serial killer who was believed to be responsible for a number of murders in and around the Whitechapel district of London between 1888 and 1891. It was during this period that the lives of Mary Ann Nichols (Polly), Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly were so brutally ended.

Known as the Whitechapel Murders, the killings saw an unsubstantiated number of female sex workers murdered by an unknown assailant[s]. At various points, some or all of these unsolved murders have been attributed to the notorious “Jack the Ripper”.

And yet the fact remains that Jack the Ripper is not, and never has been, real. The name “Jack the Ripper” was simply invented by a journalist to boost newspaper circulation – and it did just that as papers sold from stands all across London town with tales of “Jack’s” gruesome killings.

So while there was a killer – or even many killers – committing horrendous acts of femicide during the period, it was not done by a man named Jack the Ripper. And what can also be said with a great deal of certainty is that it was not a smog shrouded, top-hatted, cloak wafting mythical figure who was responsible.

The reality of the killings

What is real, though, are the women who were killed – and the pathological violence enacted upon them. Public recounts of their murders are often sanitised, and frequently omit the true ferocity of the violence and degradation they endured.

This includes virtual decapitations, facial, abdominal and genital mutilations, organ removal and possible cannibalisation. But yet in spite of the sexual injuries inflicted upon the bodies of the women killed, any sexual motives for the killings are frequently dismissed.

It has been argued by several feminist historians, that the whole grand narrative of the Whitechapel Murders is held aloft to all women – as a warning of what may happen should they breach their prescribed gendered limits of domesticity, geography and sexuality.

In this way, the story of “Jack” and his deeds, is built around a cornerstone of “whorephobia”. This is the hatred of, oppression of, violence towards, and discrimination against sex workers. And by extension, derision or disgust towards activities or attire related to sex work.

The sites of the first seven Whitechapel murders – Osborn Street (centre right), George Yard (centre left), Hanbury Street (top), Buck’s Row (far right), Berner Street (bottom right), Mitre Square (bottom left), and Dorset Street (middle left).
By Ordnance Survey; modified by User:ΑΩ

The women killed, by and large, are rarely represented as anything but deserving, diseased, destitute, addicted, immoral and unsightly. They were part of a community which was too visible and deemed verminous. And many sources at the time overtly stated that the sins of the fallen, far outweighed the sins of the hand that slew them.

The humanity and life experiences of the women killed in Whitechapel have been utterly reduced to their jobs and the roles they played in society. They have become more akin to cultural tropes of “disposable street prostitutes” than once living women. More unreal than the unreal “man” who is supposed to have killed them.

A cultural icon

Failing to acknowledge the horrific historical truth of these murders has undoubtedly impacted perceptions of Jack the Ripper today. He is seen as an “icon of crime” rather than a horrific serial killer who disembowelled women.

Worse still, since the era of the crimes, hundreds of people globally have lost their lives to killers who have confessed to emulating “Jack”. And the press still refers to “Jack the Ripper type crimes” when acts of femicide have been committed, particularly if the victims work in the sex industry.

Common depictions of so-called Jack the Ripper.
Shutterstock

“Jack” did not forge his ubiquitous cultural status, his multi-million pound industry, or his “immortality”. “Jack the Ripper” may be a made up construct but with lives still being taken in his name, it is high time that our cultural relationship with “The Ripper” changed. One way of doing this is by addressing the way such modern crimes are reported.

The ConversationThe World Health Organisation’s 2014 report, which looks at how violence can be prevented, highlights the impact language around such violence plays. And given that “Jack’s” name remains associated with an ever growing list of victims – from around the world – it is clear this is something that needs to change sooner rather than later.

Charlotte Mallinson, Lecturer in Modern World History (PhD Researcher), University of Huddersfield

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Shakespeare’s lost playhouse – now under a supermarket



File 20171003 18673 8tpfup
John Fead, Shakespeare and his contemporaries, 1851.
Wikimedia

Laurie Johnson, University of Southern Queensland

With its round amphitheatre, The Globe is the most famous playhouse associated with Shakespeare – indeed, a working, pop up replica of it is currently in Melbourne. But long before Shakespeare or his plays appeared at the Globe, another forgotten stage was the Bard’s temporary home.

It is even possible that the first purpose-built stage to house Shakespeare was at a playhouse that stood a mile south of the London Thames at the Newington Butts juncture. Rather than round, the playhouse would have been relatively small and rectangular – a conversion of an existing commercial building.

It was here, in June 1594, that theatre entrepreneur Philip Henslowe recorded the first known performances of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a theatre troupe of which Shakespeare was a founding member, playwright and actor. The company performed versions of Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew, and Titus Andronicus over 11 days.

The evidence also suggests that the actor Richard Burbage wouldn’t have been at the Newington Butts playhouse. Yet most have assumed Hamlet was a play Shakespeare wrote for Burbage.

While Shakespeare’s plays were performed at smaller venues such as inns and courtyards (possibly as early as 1589), the Newington Butts’ shows were very likely to have been the first on a major Elizabethan stage constructed specifically for the kind of theatre for which he was about to become famous. It soon vanished from history, and was largely forgotten by Shakespeare scholars.

But using 18th-century maps, I’ve been able to figure out where it likely once stood. This historically significant site is likely now under a shopping centre south of the Thames.

Shakespeare detective

The Newington Butts playhouse was built in 1575 and continued operating until 1594. The playhouse would have had at least two tiers of seating around the perimeter to be financially viable, seating about 700 to 800 patrons. It was closed down when the new leaseholder Paul Buck agreed to convert it to some other purpose – it is likely he converted the building to tenement housing.

The Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
Laurie Johnson

One of the reasons the playhouse has been easy to forget, and difficult to locate, is that there are no maps from the period that show the junction there. From the perspective of the Elizabethan mapmaker, there was not much to see south of the Thames – London was located on the north side of the river, and the road to the south quickly ran into fields only pockmarked by the occasional dwelling place or church.

While early modern maps and panoramas have been very helpful in locating the more famous playhouses like the Globe on London’s Bankside, they provide no help in searching for the playhouse at Newington Butts.

Some maps of the roads survive from at least 1681. In 1955, surveyor Ida Darlington pointed out that a property to the east of the juncture on this map was the same as that on which the playhouse stood. However, the map is of too poor quality to find a precise location.

A detail of the 1681 map showing the Newington Butts juncture. North is to the right of the picture.
Author provided

I used another map from 1746 drawn up by surveyor John Rocque to pinpoint the playhouse. The building north of the junction has remained in the same place for several hundred years. It began as stables, later becoming the Elephant and Castle Inn. Knowing this, and using early leases that record the site of the playhouse, I could figure out that the playhouse stood southeast of the inn.

John Rocque s Map of London from 1746.
Wikimedia Commons

In 1960, the Newington Butts junction was replaced by the Elephant and Castle roundabout. The site of the playhouse now likely lies under the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, named after the inn that stood there until 1960. Any archaeological remains, if they survived the redevelopment, would thus be under where the market stalls are situated. Unfortunately, this would seem unlikely, as the shopping centre’s foundations were very deep.

The ConversationSo where did Shakespeare’s troupe go after Newington Butts? Their next known stopping point was in Marlborough. By the end of 1594, they ended up performing at the Theatre in Shoreditch, the first of the famed round theatres. In 1598, the Theatre was closed down and the more famous Globe was built in 1599.

Laurie Johnson, Associate Professor in English Literature and Cultural Studies, University of Southern Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


The History of London



United Kingdom: England – The Plague in London (1665)


The link below is to an article that takes an in depth look at the plague deaths in London during 1665 and maps them.

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/society/ng-interactive/2015/aug/12/london-great-plague-1665-bills-of-mortality


United Kingdom: London – 1665 Plague Pit



WWI: Zeppelins Over London



Article: England – London’s Roman Past


The link below is to an article that looks at London’s Roman past via 10 000 objects discovered in the mud.

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/apr/09/archaeologist-objects-roman-london-find


United Kingdom: London – Black Death Pit Found


The link below is to an article concerning the discovery of what is thought to be a pit of Black Death victims in London, dating back to about 1348.

For more visit:
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/15/world/europe/uk-london-skeletons/index.html


Article: The London Tube


The link below is to an article that looks at the London Tube on its 150th birthday.

For more visit:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/33491/18-facts-and-figures-london-tubes-150th-birthday


Article: 1258 – the Year the World Ended for Many


The link below is to a very interesting article concerning the year 1258, with a focus on London. It was a year when many people died.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/05/medieval-volcano-disaster-london-graves


%d bloggers like this: