What does the Jack the Ripper case reveal about Victorian England and british\american attitude to crime ?

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saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The criminal investigation surrounding Jack The Ripper had many long-lasting repercussions regarding the English and American attitude towards crime. It immediately cast a spotlight on the conditions in London’s infamous West End. Columnists and cartoonists blamed the murders on social neglect and poverty, which resonated with the U.S. who had their own ghettos in urban centers that where just as bad as those in London. This prompted several prominent people in the U.S.  to demand action in cleaning up the worst of the urban slums. The same occurred in London, where most of the West End was cleared and demolished after the murders.

The murders also brought attention to the serious flaws in Victorian investigating techniques and moved the science of criminal investigation forward. Because of the lack of effectiveness in capturing any suspects of real note, serious pressure was put on the police force to mend their ways and modernize their techniques. Early forensic analysis techniques were improved, and American law enforcement benefitted from these improvements in the long run.

It was also a watershed moment for journalism. The sensationalism that was whipped up by London papers hurt the efforts of police who soon had to deal with public opinion as well as the facts of the case. This was a lesson that was further reinforced during the storied H.H. Holmes murder trial in the U.S. a few years later and continued to have ramifications today.


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