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Philip Sugden 1947-2014

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  • #16
    How sad, we are all indebted to Phil, and at only 67? - too young.
    Regards, Jon S.
    The theory that the murderer is a lunatic is dispelled by the opinion given to the police by an expert in the treatment of lunacy patients......."If he's insane
    " observed the medical authority, "he's a good deal sharper than those who are not".
    Reynolds Newspaper, 4 Nov. 1888.


    • #17
      it is turning into a very sad year for researchers into our chosen subject.
      To write a "ripper" book that stands the test of time is a near impossibility,
      Philip Sugden put the "near" in front of impossibility.
      Thanks for your time,
      dusty miller


      • #18
        "Complete History" was the first book I owned on the subject and it got me hooked.

        I can only echo the thoughts of others in my condolences for the family and thanks for the invaluable material he has left us behind.




        • #19
          Very sad news indeed. I echo Dusty's comments.
          Condolences to Phil's family and friends.
          "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us."


          • #20
            Very sad to hear about Philip's death, I still consider his book to be at the very top of the list on Jack the Ripper.


            • #21
              Wise Words

              "My aim, simply, was to provide serious students of the case, or indeed anyone with an interest in the case, with a dependable general book that gave a comprehensive account of the events and took a hard, no-nonsense look at the main suspects. I can't find a credible case against any of them." - Philip Sugden, April 1994.


              • #22
                My sympathies to his family and friends.


                • #23
                  Originally posted by SPE View Post
                  "My aim, simply, was to provide serious students of the case, or indeed anyone with an interest in the case, with a dependable general book that gave a comprehensive account of the events and took a hard, no-nonsense look at the main suspects."
                  He certainly succeeded there, on all counts.
                  Kind regards, Sam Flynn

                  "Suche Nullen"
                  (F. Nietzsche)


                  • #24
                    So sorry to hear this, my thoughts to all his family and friends.

                    If you're going to be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.


                    • #25
                      I obviously didn't know him nor ever seen him or heard his voice - but 'Sugden said...' is a common argument stopper which sums up the regard he is held in, in this field.


                      • #26

                        Mr. Sugden's Obituary in the Daily Telegraph
                        May 16, 2014

                        Philip Sugden was an historian who brought a new, much-needed, scholastic rigour to the crimes of Jack the Ripper

                        Philip Sugden, who has died aged 67, was the first academic historian to apply scholastic rigour to the notoriously flaky field of “Ripperology” – the study of the serial murders of Victorian prostitutes in the East End of London by a mysterious knife-wielding maniac popularly known as Jack the Ripper.

                        Sugden disdained many of the books about the Ripper killings (at least 30 in the last half-century alone) as a monstrous cult industry. In The Complete History Of Jack The Ripper (1994) he returned to primary sources, stripping away layers of misinformation, distortion, hoaxes, fakery, invention and speculation that had accreted over more than a century to uncover and re-examine the unvarnished facts. His book, correcting many of the errors and myths that pervaded earlier works of “Ripperature”, was acclaimed as the gold standard of the genre.

                        Discounting most of the outlandish theories about — and contenders for — the killer’s identity canvassed by earlier writers, Sugden painstakingly reconstructed the murder and mutilation of between four and nine prostitutes in Whitechapel in the years between 1888 and 1892.

                        A trained historian, Sugden trawled through thousands of original documents, unlike many “idle and incompetent” Ripperologists who had ventured into print with their theories identifying the culprit variously as “black magicians and imaginary Russian doctors, mad Freemasons and erring royals”.

                        He inveighed against the “dishonesty and fraud” that had disfigured much Ripper research, and exposed various internecine feuds between previous biographers of the Victorian era’s most famous fugitive. He dismissed the so-called Ripper Diary, purportedly written by the Liverpool cotton broker James Maybrick, as “an impudent fake”.

                        One of Sugden’s hallmarks was his attention to detail. Cataloguing the pathetic contents of the pockets of one of the Ripper’s victims, he noted her two clay pipes, a little tin of sugar and metal teaspoon; another’s contained a piece of muslin and a pocket comb in a paper case.
                        He shied away from building a case against a particular suspect, but in naming his own favoured candidate, a Polish-born publican calling himself George Chapman, who was hanged for multiple poisonings in 1903, Sugden admitted he was far from certain, and considered Chapman “only the best of a poor bunch”. As he concluded: “There is every possibility that the man the Victorians called 'the master murderer of the age’ was in reality a complete nobody whose name never found its way into the police file... some sad social cripple who lived out his days in obscurity, his true identity a secret now known only to the dead.”
                        The younger of twin boys, Philip Sugden was born on January 27 1947 at Hull, where his father was a painter and decorator. Leaving Ainthorpe High School at the age of 16 , he spent four years with the parks department of Hull city council before taking his A-levels at the Hull College of Commerce and gaining a place to read History at Hull University, graduating in 1972.
                        He immediately embarked on his doctorate, but his dissertation on early Stuart maritime expansion remained unfinished, partly on account of his meticulous nature and repeated rewriting, and partly because his grant ran out. In 1976 he took a teaching job at Chenet School in Cannock, a former grammar school that was being transformed into a comprehensive, where he taught history, English and economics.
                        Meanwhile, he had become enthralled by the Georgian period, and in particular crime in 18th-century London; and while there were many popular books covering rakes and highwaymen, Sugden was one of the first serious writers in the field, using his spare time to delve into contemporary records that had lain undisturbed for more than two centuries, many of them written in archaic legal Latin which he taught himself to decipher.
                        Becoming disenchanted with teaching, he turned to full-time writing and researching in 1988. By then, on his brother’s urging, he had determined to write an honest and dependable book about Jack the Ripper, who had fascinated him since his school days. Nine years in the research and writing, his book was a critical and popular success, selling in excess of 100,000 copies.
                        Sugden contributed several articles to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, including one on the 18th-century thief and prison-breaker Jack Sheppard and another on the Edwardian multiple bigamist George Joseph Smith, the so-called “Brides in the Bath” murderer.
                        Two other books remained unfinished at the time of his death. One, A Cabinet of Curiosities, deals with historical mysteries ranging from the sea serpent reportedly sighted in the harbour at Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1817, to the riddle of the aviator Amy Johnson’s fatal flight in 1941. The other, Forbidden Hero — The Georgian Underworld of Jack Sheppard, is set amid the paupers, pimps, prostitutes, thieves and thief-takers of Hogarthian London.
                        A reclusive, mild-mannered man, he disliked making public appearances; lived frugally and alone; and despite his success as a writer expressed no interest in money.
                        He loved the countryside and belonged to several conservation groups. His other interests ranged from French cinema to the popular music of New York, from Tin Pan Alley to punk.
                        Philip Sugden, who suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, was unmarried. He is survived by his twin brother, John, a retired lecturer and former senior research fellow at the University of Chicago, and the author of award-winning studies of American history and of a two-volume life of Nelson.

                        Philip Sugden, born January 27 1947, found dead April 26 2014
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                        Contact [email protected]


                        • #27
                          Message From Dr John Sugden

                          I have been contacted by Philip's brother, Dr. John Sugden, and asked to relay a message to all of those who have paid their respects and said kind words, about Phil, on the message boards. He says -

                          'I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have paid their respects to my brother on this website. He would have been moved to read your words. Phil was a quiet person, who never courted publicity, and he declined most invitations to speak at conferences or give interviews. He only consented to do one television programme, and that was a documentary made for French television. But he was always pleased to know that his work was appreciated. It had not always been so. Many of you will not know that Phil had a hard time getting a publisher for his book. He was sure that an exhaustive, impartial and well-reasoned history would serve the study of the Whitechapel murders, but publishers complained that his book was either too big, too detailed or - the commonest caveat - that he hadn't told his readers who Jack the Ripper really was! Almost in vain did Phil try to tell them that History wasn't as clear-cut as that. We don't know the answers to so many interesting but stubbornly baffling episodes of the past. Despite all, Phil and I had faith in his book, and persevered, refusing all offers to publish a trimmed or bowdlerized version. I used to say to Phil, quoting Oscar Wilde I think, "If you tell the truth, some day you are sure to be found out." Somewhere there had to be a publisher as committed to honest history as we were, and Nick Robinson, who sadly died last year, stepped nobly up to the plate. Phil would have been delighted to learn that so many of you enjoyed his book, and benefited from what he had done. Among other things, it would have told him that he had been right to fight his battle to get it to you as he had written it. Terri and I also greatly appreciate all your kind thoughts and wishes, and wish you success in your own quests for the truth about this mysterious corner of Britain's past. John Sugden.'


                          • #28

                            Hello Stewart. Thanks for posting this.

                            A real lesson in perseverance.



                            • #29
                              For years I read the various books that claimed to identify The last. As a journalist, until recently I believed a lucky bit of research or a lucky find could solve the case and thus the lucky finder would have a good book or article.

                              In the end the effects of reading the books with the "solutions" must be similar to getting high on drugs. There is the huge thrill of finally knowing the answer and having the explanation. Then there are doubts. Then a bit of a depressed feeling because the answer probably wasn't really there. Then another author comes up with another solution and a new book and it's time for another fix.

                              The books that can be read over and over are works like Mr. Sugden's that provide facts and history. I believe if the solution if it is ever found, it will come from the works of many people digging out facts and sharing them.

                              My deepest sympathy to Mr. Sugden's family and friends.
                              The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript