Legislation and Government Action:

The political, economic, and cultural stress in London made class tensions a prevalent issue during the nineteenth century.  The root of the class tensions in London seemed to stem from the lack of reform in the East End.  Many people of the East End thought that the government was only working in support of the people of the West End.  Many people thought that if the living conditions in East End had improved then there would have been less “vice and crime,” and that there would have been little change in the conditions in East End as long as “reeking courts, crowded public-houses, low lodging houses, and numerous brothels” existed (Haggard 199).  The few attempted government reforms in East End actually made matters of class division worse.  The London government made an effort of housing reform in 1875 with the Artisans and Laborers Dwelling Act in order to create new and nicer housing and apartments in the East End.  However, when they did this, the houses were too expensive for the average East End resident (Haggard 200). This act furthered the class division because the new and nicer houses and apartments constructed under the Artisans and Laborers Dwelling Act were more expensive.  Therefore, the people of the working class saw the reforms as only benefitting the middle class.

Notice banning meetings in Trafalgar Square

Notice banning meetings in Trafalgar Square

These types of tensions between classes continued throughout the late 1800’s.  The height of class tensions arrived with the incident on “Bloody Sunday” in November of 1887. On Bloody Sunday, the working class tried to enter Trafalgar Square in order to protest and revolt against rising unemployment in the working class (Walkowitz, “Jack” 545). Because of the police action against the working class during this event, it furthered the working class idea that the government was only working in favor of the upper class.  Also, events like this caused fear in the middle and upper class citizens of London that the lower class people of East London could come together to create a revolutionary socialist movement (Walkowitz, “Jack” 545).  Because the Jack the Ripper murders came right on the heels of these riots they “fed the flames of class hatred and distrust on both sides” (Walkowitz, “Jack” 545).  The reaction of the people of West End London to the Jack the Ripper murders mirrored the fear of the revolution from the poor of the East End.  On the other hand, reactions to the murders from the East End reflected, “ingrained prejudice against foreigners, Jews, police, and upper class society” (Haggard 197).  Because of these riots, many people of the West End did not see the distinction between the criminal poor and the regular citizens of the East End.  It was this type of behavior that led to disdain for the entire working class rather than just the criminals and protestors.

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