Historic Site: East End of London, late 19th century

Historic Site: East End of London, late 19th century

Living Conditions

  • Overpopulation: The East End of London was heavily overpopulated, contributing to poor living conditions and high crime rates.
  • Poverty: Widespread poverty and unemployment led many to resort to crime to survive.
  • Slum housing: The majority of people lived in slum housing, with multiple people crammed into tiny, unsanitary spaces.
  • Disease: The poor living conditions also led to outbreaks of disease, contributing to general disorder in the area.

Crime and Policing

  • Jack the Ripper: The infamous serial killer known as Jack the Ripper operated in the East End, and although his identity remains unknown, his case significantly influenced public perceptions of crime in the area.
  • Prostitution: In the desperate conditions, many women turned to prostitution. This was both a reaction to poverty and a crime in itself, as it was illegal at that time.
  • Gangs: Organised crime gangs, such as the Peaky Blinders, were active in the area, contributing to high levels of violence and theft.
  • Police Patrols: In order to combat high crime rates, the number of police patrols in the area was increased. However, the police were often viewed with suspicion and hostility by locals.

Developments in Crime and Punishment

  • Establishment of CID: The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) was established in 1878 to undertake detective work, following public concerns about lack of action over high-profile crimes like Jack the Ripper.
  • Prison Reforms: The period witnessed the continuing process of prison reforms with a shift towards isolation and hard labour as primary forms of punishment.
  • Introduction of ‘Preventive Policing’: This period saw a push towards ‘preventive policing’, which aimed at preventing crime by maintaining a visible police presence.
  • Invention of Fingerprinting: The practice of fingerprinting was introduced near the end of the 19th century, helping to revolutionise criminal detection methods.

Significance of East End in History of Crime and Punishment

  • Societal Problems: The conditions in the East End highlighted the societal problems of the time that contributed to high crime rates, including overcrowding, poverty, and disease.
  • Changes in Policing: The crime-intensive environment of the East End led to changes in policing, such as increased patrols and the establishment of the CID.
  • Public Perception of Crime: High-profile crimes, such as the murders by Jack the Ripper, caused significant fear and played a large role in shaping the public’s perception of crime and police competency.