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The Things We Forgot To Remember - Jack the Ripper

Updated Wednesday 22nd November 2006

To what extent did Jack The Ripper mask more pressing fears of revolution in Victorian England? Michael Portillo investigates as part of the BBC/OU series 'The Things We Forgot to Remember'

Victorian Riots Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

We remember Jack the Ripper - the top-hatted, knife-wielding psychopath - but what has our fascination with the man made us forget about the time in which he plied his diabolical craft?

We forget Bloody Sunday in November 1887, we forget the riots, the moral panic and the talk of revolution from the East End that accompanied the stories of the Ripper murders.

The real fear in London in the later years of the 1880s wasn’t a man with a knife, it was a socialist revolution and a moral contagion that threatened the Empire – and in the Queen’s Jubilee season, too!

But slum clearance, popular journalism and a brigade of the Grenadier Guards succeeded in removing one fear, whilst popular prurience ensured immortality for another.

You can read a transcript of this programme.

First broadcast: Monday 16 May 2005 on BBC Radio 4

 

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