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This book gives a fascinating account of London in 1888: a time of depression, strikes and protests and panic over a series of murders by Jack the Ripper. The author looks at a number of other murders, and cases of manslaughter, that happened during that year; revealing a portrait of London that is very different, and yet very similar, to our own time. We too have a time of economic depression, a Queen who has just celebrated a Jubilee, a government led by an Old Etonian Conservative, gangs and knife crime. In many ways, 1888 mirrors our present age in a distorted image, although there are also interesting, and important, differences. In London today, you are more likely to be a victim of murder if you are male. In 1888, women made up a greater percentage of victims, and children were also, tragically, often killed - especially as babies.

The author gives a wonderfully vivid account of those times, presenting cases of murder which range from those which caused media outrage, to those which aroused little interest at the time. He recounts the stories of drunken brawls which led to murder, omnibus accidents which resulted in charges of manslaughter, domestic violence, the murders of prostitutes (including those attributed to the Ripper) and many other cases. There is also a lot of detailed information about how the city was policed (including the discovery of the torso of a woman hidden in the foundations of the building which was to become New Scotland Yard). Links between then and today are always with us. Whitechapel, still a cosmopolitan area, was under attack from complaints of immigrants driving down wages and taking jobs, with intolerance and racism rearing its ugly head. Sadly, knife crime and gangs are not a new problem either and in 1888 the Gazette proclaimed, "a generation is growing up around us which has never been disciplined, either at home or at school." Not much new from the newspapers either then, with the media still attempting to rouse moral frenzy and panic around news stories. It is also shocking to read how many deaths were caused by firearms before proper restrictions were placed on them in 1920.

Overall, this is a really exciting and evocative read. It follows crimes to their conclusion, discussing court cases and how many murders remained unsolved. Poverty and drink, plus the fear of ruin, lay at the core of many of the most tragic murders and often the courts took a more lenient and compassionate view of crimes which were caused by total despair. If you are interested in historical true crime, or Victorian London, I am sure you will find this book an excellent read. The Appendix has many statistics about murder and manslaughter cases in London in the 1880's and, lastly, I read the kindle version of this book and the illustrations were included at the end.
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on 2 May 2013
Mention the year 1888 and 'murder' and only one moniker springs to mind.

But there were hundreds of other murders and unexplained and violent deaths in the metropolis in that year. People were killed on the roads, drowned in the Thames, were killed for money and in domestic arguments and crimes of passion, and, sadly, at the hands of the mentally ill. Unlike the victims of Jack the Ripper, most of these victims are forgotten. Really, 1888 was not a special year for death.

This is a great study in social history, and a good read - if rather depressing. The poverty of the East End and the impotence of the poor, particularly women, to survive in such a cruel world is truly horrific. The lot of servant girls, driven to kill and conceal their newborns just so that they could keep their jobs, made my blood boil. Women today don't know how lucky we are.
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The year 1888 is most notably known as the year Jack the Ripper created terror in the streets of Whitechapel, murdering five, possibly six prostitutes and escaping from justice, the mystery of his identity lingering on through the years. But, as Stubley quite rightly points out, Jack's were not the only murders in London that year, and perhaps it is these others, lost to history, that are far more indicative of a particular time and place that the more celebrated ones of Jack the Ripper.

Stubley takes a relatively thematic approach, looking at the different kinds of murders and manslaughters committed in 1888 - vehicular accidents, street fights, illegal abortions, insanity pleas, husbands murdering wives, parents killing children, teenage gangs. With this approach he looks at the context surrounding the crimes, and it is telling just how often poverty and alcoholism play a major part.

What I found interesting is just how few of these cases resulted in the death penalty. The stereotypical view of Victorian justice was that it was harsh and extreme, the hangman's noose the inevitable end - but the majority of the cases involved pleas for mercy and only one ended up making the final drop.
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The horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper tend to dominate London in the year 1888 but there were other murders and this book sets out to give us more information about these other cases. I found it interesting reading as it brings all those almost forgotten cases to life. What I was most surprised by was that of all the murders in London during that year only one resulted in the death penalty being carried out.

There were many cases where the death penalty was passed but the person was reprieved. I think many people have the idea that in Victorian London a murder conviction always resulted in the hangman's noose but this is very far from being the case if this year is in any way representative.

There were many cases of babies or small children dying accidentally or being killed by their mothers or fathers. Again I was surprised by the leniency shown to women who had often given birth in secret and disposed of the child. The courts, the coroner and the police seemed to lean over backwards to find extenuating circumstances for the crime and hardly any of the women concerned actually ended up in prison.

The author suggests that this could also be because children were not considered as important then as they are now - life was cheap certainly when it came to infants. Men killing their wives were not so lucky and it seemed as though violence against women was starting to be unacceptable to authority as well as to society in general.

I loved the way the author brought all the cases to life by quoting from the trials and by providing details about the way people lived and worked in 1888. The book showed clearly that alcoholism - both men and women - and teenage gangs are nothing new.

The book contains an appendix which gives the statistics for those who are interested and there is also a chapter about the Ripper cases. There are notes on each chapter and a bibliography which provides suggestions for further reading. If you are interested to know about other people who met their death apart from the Ripper victims then try this book.
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on 3 May 2016
1888 is a year that entered history for all the wrong reasons - the Autumn of Terror was the time the unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London. But these were not the only crimes in what was then the capital of the British Empire, and the primary trading 1888 is a year that entered history for all the wrong reasons - the Autumn of Terror was the time the unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London. But these were not the only crimes in what was then the capital of the British Empire, and the primary trading port of the world.

This fascinating book recounts a whole year of killings; some were done in pitiful desperation, some for the usual reasons - greed or love, some were done on the spur of the moment, some were done in madness but all were tragic in their own way. In part this is a social commentary - almost all the killers and the majority of the victims were poor. This was a time without many rights for women or children, domestic violence was very common, families were often large and money was scarce. In, what was arguably, the most civilised city on Earth, life was cheap and crime was rife.

Most of these tragic tales are little known - forgotten by time, and overshadowed by the Ripper's crimes. This is the first time I have seen some of these outlined, and I read a lot of true crime. The author deals with the subject sympathetically, non-judgementally and references particular articles, laws, biographies etc. It's obvious a lot of research was done to select these accounts and to present them accurately, and in the context of the time. In the case of the Ripper, the author does not speculate on a possible perpetrator, as many crime writers do, he simply presents the facts and states that no one was ever identified as Jack the Ripper.

Overall I'd recommend this to readers of Victorian history, true crime, British history and those interested in the social commentary of the time.
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I have to say that, over the years, I've followed the ever changing tale of Jack the Ripper and, even though I've got my own theories about his identity, I never get bored of reading other books about him.

This book however is not about the Ripper, it's about the other murders carried out in London in 1888. It's about the men, women and children that have been forgotten in the shadow of 'Jack'. It's also the first book I've ever read that really does give the reader a clear idea of what the dark, smokey streets of London 'hid' from the eyes of the 'fortunates'. We've all got our idea of gas-lit streets, foggy nights, prostitutes dressed in deep reds and purples and cries of 'Murder' etc. What about the day-to-day life? The Summer evenings, the tranquil afternoons, working conditions, starvation? Peter Stubley's book brings it all to life. As I read further into the book, I realised that a lot of what went before is happening still. The hatred we're all supposed to have for those who 'come over 'ere, takin' our jobs'. The dreadful working conditions and the 'zero-hour contracts' of those days. It's all here: Life under a Queen of England. Elizabeth and Victoria - two peas in a pod, it seems.

I can't speak highly enough of this book. It's certainly an aspect of Victorian life that's largely been hidden or forgotten about. If you have any interest in the subject matter, you'll already know about his crimes but get this book and gain a real insight into the 'Time of Jack the Ripper'. You'll learn more about Jack than you'll ever learn from all the other Ripper books.
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on 9 May 2013
The book is very well researched and is an interesting glimpse into life in 1888 and how brutal it could be. I enjoyed the comparisons to problems in society today. However, i did get a bit bored with some of the stories, maybe i wanted something a bit more sensational, i am not sure. It does highlight just how important modern scientific methods are in convicting the guilty.
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on 28 January 2014
I really enjoyed this book - it gives true-life accounts of every murder that took place in London in 1888. Only thing I found at fault was that the Ripper murders of that year weren't given more detail.

Seems there was a lot of wives / girlfriends killed by their menfolk by throat-slashing in 1888 - one was even killed because she didn't get her husband a cup of tea!! Next time someone says "The good old days" - wave this book under their nose!
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2013
London, 1888 was over-shadowed by the serial killings of Jack the Ripper in the East End. However, while Jack was preparing his campaign, other crimes were taking place and this book certainly covers them. The book covers street brawls outside pubs, abuse by drunken husbands and crimes committed by those living in poverty and squalor in a city that was beginning to expand beyond its confines. Despite the threat of hanging for crimes committed, it is surprising how many criminals escaped death due to jury decision and cases thrown out of court. I certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in the lives of people who lived in these Victorian times as it gives a vivid account of what life was really like in comparison to today's standard of living.
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on 15 May 2013
I thought from the blurb that this book would contain all the other murders that happened in 1888 as I, like many others interested in Jack the Ripper, have read lots about the Ripper's crimes. But, a reasonable proportion of the book was about the Ripper murders. The book itself finished at 78% of the way through so there was a lot less of it than I was expecting!

Apart from these two points, the rest of the book was interesting and enlightening.
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