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October 2019

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  • October 2019

    Jack the ripper & the london press - L Perry Curtis Jnr

    I believe the author has also written a book titled "catch me when you can" which has been on my list of books to acquire for yeas. I've never found one. As I type this, I wonder if the 2 titles are one and the same book?

    This is a proper academic work. My copy is a lovely, mint hardback. It's big, and heavy! 12 chapters. 70 pages of properly referenced notes, and an 8 page index.

    And it isn't in any way a standard ripper book. Only 1 chapter deals with the actual crimes, and in such minimal detail. However it is to be expected, as the purpose of the study isn't the crimes, but press reportage.

    Reading this book can be, at times, heavy going. In reality, this is more a book to study, rather than to read. It was a time consuming task. A single chapter would frequently occupy me for a whole evening. It isn't the kind of book to skim. The introduction alone took me the best part of an hour to get through.

    The introduction settles much of the purpose of the book. As mentioned, very academic in style. However in reading this, I am again reminded of how some researchers have been very considerate of the victims, and enjoyed how LPCJ highlights differing theories/perspectives on social history. Reflecting some contemporaneous debates, the credit and perspective of feminist thinkers is given a due airing, and through the introduction, indeed whole book the author shows considerable compassion for many. I clearly recall within the first couple of chapters feeling someone ought forward a copy of this to HR.

    The overview of the canonical 5 is the only place I found errors - LPCJ asserts Stride had 9 children, and her husband died in the Princess Alice disaster. A few lines later, Druitt is alleged to have worked in a school in Whitechapel. At this point, I wondered if this bodes well for the rest of the book. I needn't have panicked - these bits were the area outside of LPCJ's comfort area.

    4 further chapters follow, with analysis of the press of the time. How they operated, what worked for news sellers, how newspapers rose in popularity. There's a lot of social, economic, and class based textualisation here, which are factors influencing reportage. A simple example is rising literacy levels contributing to more publishing, leading to the so called penny press. Additional focus is on how news media sensationalize certain stories.

    4 further chapters proceed to focus on the specific reporting of the C5 murders, then a couple relate to the inquests, including much detail and insight into how inquests, and in particular the female body would be covered in the press.

    There's a chapter on letters to newspapers (contemporaneous vox-pops?) with a summary chapter covering culture and publishing.

    Reading any ripper book for me must give me something. Whilst this book was, in places, hard going, it was worth it. LPCJ shines a wide range of light on a lot of relevant topics to the media of the 1880's, and this was really thought provoking stuff. He made me think about culture, politics, social norms and expectations, class and economics, and so much more just on their influence on what was being published.

    This tells me, as I am reminded every time I learn something, that things are, generally, a lot more complicated than we first assume, and we don't realise how complicated they are, until we start looking. The difficulty can then become when and where to stop looking.

  • #2
    Tip of the hat, Lem ! Thanks !
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    • #3
      I've reflected a lot on reading this book, and I keep returning to believing that there is a hell of a lot of information concerning sexual politics and gender politics in this book, that isn't usually given due consideration in the case. One example is LPCJs assessment of how the press reported the wounds to female victims.

      Honestly, it really makes you think. And puts the lie to the line being trumpeted that researchers have been misogynistic, or lacking compassion for the victims. LPCJ repeatedly shows great empathy for the victims.