"Victorian London was an incredibly complex society which had a lot of social issues to deal with, such as crime, poverty, and prostitution," explains Jamie Wolfendale, marketing executive of The History Press in the U.K.
Thanks to Wolfendale and her colleagues at U.K. publisher History Press, Victorian London now also has Twitter—specifically, a Twitter account that tracks what happened in the Whitechapel district of East London in the late 1880s. That was a time of dockworkers with sore feet, butchers struggling to stay open in neighborhoods full of people too poor to afford meat, beggars stealing apples—and, most famously, Jack the Ripper.
The WhitechapelRealTime account launched on August 24th, and its first week was spent telling the stories of the #Butchers, #Constables, #WorkingLadies, and more—but history buffs and true crime enthusiasts who recognize the name of Mary Ann Nichols know that with her murder on August 31st, Jack the Ripper hysteria was in full effect.
"The media often used and manipulated the social issues to sell more copies of their papers every day," Wolfendale says. "The Ripper murders are often cited as the reason behind the onset of press sensationalism—which is something that will feature heavily in the project."
After a successful project in a similar vein last year—TitanicRealTime—the History Press was looking for another concept to tweet in real time, and the nature of both social media and the Jack the Ripper murders made this a logical fit. "Social media would have played a massive factor in the Ripper case if it existed at the time," Wolfendale adds. "We wanted to show people that there is a much broader and more interesting context to history than that which is often portrayed in popular media."
It's hard to imagine just how much the Jack the Ripper case would have been magnified had Twitter existed—it would have been like a somewhat grislier Miley Cyrus twerking of the late 1880s—but with WhitechapelRealTime, we can at least follow along with an alternate history in which it did. See some highlights of WhitechapelRealTime below.
[Images via The Lodger (1944)]