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Jack the Ripper's London: Myth, Reality and the Victorian Metropolis 1LIB416
University of Westminster
London, England

Subject Area(s) Level(s) Instruction in Credits Contact Hours Prerequisites
Liberal Arts and Sciences 200 English 4 50 N/A

Module Leader: Helen Glew
Module Code: 1LIB416
Assessment: 50 % Coursework; 50% in-class test

Summary of Module Content: Poverty and wealth in late Victorian London;
the East End of London; crime; Jack the Ripper.

During the 1880s, in the East End of Victorian London, a killer stalked the streets. He
committed some of the worst murders in the history of the capital, yet he was never
caught. For this reason, Jack the Ripper has captured the popular imagination more than
any other urban serial killer. Yet the Ripper myth, whether in film or in a multitude of
popular books, has been accompanied by representations of the Victorian capital which
throw little light onto the real social and economic conditions of late Victorian London.
Using contemporary sources, such as the Poverty Maps of Charles Booth, newspapers and magazines, and field-walks to the sites of the murders, the module aims to examine these terrible crimes in their contemporary urban context, and to allow students to critically assess some of the more lurid and simplistic representations of East London. It aims to encourage students to think beyond caricatures of both people and place, and to allows them to gain an informed understanding the social and economic conditions of the late Victorian Metropolis.

By the end of the module students are expected to be able to:
• show knowledge and understanding of the main social, cultural and economic
characteristics of late Victorian London ;
• demonstrate awareness of the immediate myths and misrepresentations attaching to the Jack the Ripper murders;
• begin to recognise the complexity of historical processes and relationships at work in
interpretations of historical events;
• make use of concepts as tools of historical understanding;
• work individually and in groups and present findings effectively in a variety of formats;
• utilise and interpret primary historical sources, considering their reliability, value and
• use historical evidence and argument, to reach and support reasonable conclusions;
• communicate effectively in written English, using recognised academic apparatus.

The module addresses a number of significant issues and episodes in the history of late
Victorian London and the Ripper murders, including:
- Poverty and the primary sources that enable us to understand its location, effects, and
- The social geography of London;
- The economy of Victorian London;
- The nature and impact of the murders;
- Representations of the murders since in literature and film.

The module is delivered via lectures and seminars. Lectures last for approximately one
and a half hours and give the essential framework for the module 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 module is assessed via coursework and a two-hour pre-seen in-class test. Coursework consists of a group presentation (20 minutes) and linked, individual report (1,500 words).
The topic of the presentation and report will be decided by the group and approved by
the module leader, and will relate to the social and/or economic context of the Jack the
Ripper murders. In the test, students will answer one essay question and attempt a
documentary analysis exercise. Documents are provided in advance of the test, 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 imeconstrained environment and have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to work alone and in group, and make an oral presentation using relevant information and communication technology.

In the group presentation, students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
?? Choose an appropriate topic;
?? Work effectively as part of a group;
?? Prepare and deliver an effective oral presentation, using relevant ICT.
In the individual report, students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
?? Choose an appropriate topic;
?? Work effectively on their own;
?? Make use of relevant primary and secondary historical sources;
?? Prepare and present a relevant and competent report which raises and addresses
relevant questions.

In the documentary analysis exercises, students are expected to demonstrate that they
• explain what the document is;
• place it in its historical context;
• comment upon and explain the significant points, references and allusions in the text;
• understand and explain the reliability or otherwise of the documents as an historical
• summarise its value to the student of Victorian London;
• communicate in good written English.
Students are advised to consult ‘Notes on the Preparation and Presentation of
Documentary Analysis Exercises’ on the University intranet at http://regent/history/
In the essay, students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
• understand the question set;
• formulate and structure an essay which directly addresses and answers the question set and which is based upon accumulated knowledge and developed understanding;
• use appropriate academic conventions and apparatus;
• communicate in good written English.

Criteria for grading assessed work include the following:
• the breadth and depth of demonstrated knowledge and understanding;
• the coherence and persuasiveness of sustained argument;
• the absence of unsubstantiated generalisation;
• the extent and sophistication of use and synthesis of secondary sources;
• the accuracy, fluency and appropriateness of written English;
• the clarity and consistency of use of academic apparatus;
• the extent of imagination and originality of thinking;
• the use of relevant historical evidence to sustain logical and reasonable conclusions.

Students’ work is judged to fall at a given point within the range of possible performance
from poor to outstanding and marks are awarded as follows:
Characteristics of Performance:
Outstanding 80-100%
Excellent 70-79%
Good, some excellent 65-69%
Consistently good 60-64%
Satisfactory, some good 55-59%
Satisfactory, some weaknesses 50-54%
Satisfactory, with significant weaknesses 45-49%
Weak, but meeting pass standard 40-44%
Poor, marginally below pass standard 35-39%
Poor, clear fail 0-34%

The assessment scheme consists of coursework and a test as follows:

?? group presentation (20 minutes, using PowerPoint) 20%
?? individual report (1,500 words) 30%
?? pre-seen in-class test (2 hours; 2 questions (50 % each)) 50%

Essential Reading:
Begg P. Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History (2002)
Creaton H. ‘Recent scholarship on Jack the Ripper and the Victorian Media’
Review Article:
Curtis, L. P. Jack the Ripper and the London Press (2001)
Evans S. and Skinner K. Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell (2001)
Further Reading:
Englander D. and O’Day R. Retrieved Riches: Social Investigation in Britain, 1840 -1914
Fishman W. East End 1888 (1988)
Greenwood J. The Seven Curses of London (1981 edn.)
Inwood, S A History of London (1998)
Jones, G. S. Outcast London (1984) 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)
Sheppard, F. London: A History (1998)

Periodical References:
Students are encouraged to make use of periodicals such as History Today, Modern History Review as well as more academic journals such as The Journal of Contemporary History, Journal of Modern History, Contemporary British History. Articles may be located via infolinx on the library web site at
WWW References:
There exists a large number of more or less useful history websites on the Internet, a list of which may be found on the history intranet at http://regent/history Naturally particular caution should be exercised when using such material.
Some useful sites are:
[There are many more]
Date of Initial Validation: April 2004

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