Jack-the-Ripper: Crime, Popular Culture and Policing in Victorian Times

Module code: HS2328

You’ll be examining the moral and cultural climate associated with the 19th century underworld of Victorian society. Using the phenomenon of Jack-the-Ripper as an historical prism, you’ll engage with the dynamics of English law and order (rhetoric versus reality, continuity/change and central-local relations).

The module analyses attitudes towards sex crimes and prostitution, criminal classes, the development of the penitentiary system and the regulation of policing, in an age when public perceptions of crime and punishment in popular culture challenged those of the establishment. Throughout you’ll be evaluating historical debates surrounding the legal reach of criminal justice, and the policing of the underclass.

Some of the ideas you’ll explore will be whether prisons were a just measure of pain, the fashioning of sensational crimes in the press, and the construction of ‘outsiders’ such as juvenile delinquents, poisoners, child-killers and violent women. You’ll examine cases that include sexual offenders, youth crime, domestic violence and the demonising of migrants. The module culminates with a 3 week case study of the Jack-the-Ripper murders and their historical controversies.

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