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Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History
Paul Begg
Longman, 2002. 240pp., illustrated.
ISBN: 058250631X

Casebook Review:

The subtitle, "Definitive History," may prove misleading to some readers, who might otherwise expect to find a long, detailed rundown of every aspect of the Ripper crimes in this book. That is not the case. Indeed, Begg's coverage of the Ripper crimes themselves comprises barely half the length of the book. Only the most salient facts of each murder (from Emma Smith to Mary Kelly) are provided. Then the five "police suspects" are examined in slight detail, and some shrift is given to the Royal Conspiracy theory and the Maybrick Diary. All in all, the book provides a strong, if compact, coverage of the Ripper case.

The true brilliance of this work, however, shows itself in the remaining 150 or so pages not dedicated to the Ripper. This is where Begg really shines, and what makes this book stand out as one of the most important Ripper releases of the past several years.

Begg provides one of the best overarching accounts of social conditions in London's East End, as well as the history and internal politics of both the police, government and press organizations of the time. Countless other Ripper books have attempted to paint a picture of Whitechapel in 1888, but none have succeeded to this extent. Begg doesn't just describe the late Victorian East End, he provides the entire history of the area, from Roman times to the present. We're not simply told what East London was like in 1888, but more importantly, how it came to be that way. This detailed examination of why Whitechapel became one of the poorest districts in London goes a long way to reveal the motivation, background and history of its inhabitants. For the first time, the Ripper crimes are placed in their true social and historical context.

Highly recommended to all students of the case.


Related pages:
  Paul Begg
       Authors: A Talk With Paul Begg 
       Authors: An Interview with Paul Begg 
       Dissertations: A Final Response to Mr. Harris 
       Dissertations: Getting Better 
       Dissertations: Jack the Ripper on Old Time Radio 
       Dissertations: Jack the Ripper: What’s in a Name? 
       Dissertations: Reader Reactions 
       Dissertations: Summing Up and Verdict: Liverpool 2003 
       Dissertations: Summing Up and Verdict: Liverpool 2003 
       Dissertations: The Caution was Given 
       Dissertations: The Maybrick Hoax: Evasions are Valueless 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: The Facts 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: The Uncensored Facts 
       Ripper Media: Ripperology: The Best of Ripperologist Magazine 
       Ripper Media: The Jack the Ripper A to Z