Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders

Worksheets and lesson plans for teaching Whitechapel Edexcel GCSE.

History Cold Case: Who was the Whitechapel Murderer?

In the second half of 1888, the most infamous serial killer in history struck terror into the heart of London. The identity of the Whitechapel Murderer, who has gone into legend as "Jack the Ripper" remains a mystery to this day.

In this investigation, students will methodically build up a own profile of the murderer based on the evidence that survives. They will then use this profile to decide for themselves who exactly the murderer was from a list of the 15 most popular suspects using an ActiveHistory computer simulation to help them do so.

Worksheets and Interactive Exercises

1. Introductory Slideshow: Why was Jack the Ripper so infamous?
Designed to accompany the worksheet which follows, this introduces some of the key issues that will be investigated, along with some arresting imagery.
2. What was the East End like in 1888?
Students are introduced to the terrible social conditions that prevailed in East End of London and make deductions about how these could have helped "Jack". They are presented with a list of the problems and deprivations in the East End and consider how each would have helped the killer. They also analyse an extract from a report produced at the time and rank the problems listed within it from the most horrendous downwards.
3. Who were Jack's victims?
Students investigate the sad lives of each of Jack's victims - Polly Nicholls, Annie Chapman, Lizzie Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly - and compare similarities and differences between them by construcing parallel timelines. Were these women to blame for the condition they found themselves in by 1888, or were they victims of the system?

Left-wing and Right Wing: Which are you? [online simulation]
At this point, after a discussion of whether students feel that the victims of Jack the Ripper were responsible for their own poverty or whether instead they were crushed by 'the system, students complete this computer questionnaire, which will provide them with some initial suggestions about whether they are Left- or Right-Wing. This can be completed in class, or set as a homework activity. Students are then asked to complete a Triangle Nine Template by completing the following steps: "Step 1: COPY the 9 statements you agreed with from your table and PASTE them into the diagram - but Organise the statements you agree with most strongly towards the TOP of the diagram, and the statements you are less bothered about towards the BOTTOM. Step 2: Colour Left-wing statements in RED and Right-Wing statements in BLUE. Step 3: Give your diagram a title: "The political profile of [YOUR NAME]".

4. Geographic Profiling!
"Plot the location of each murder on this map. Number them 1-5. Based on the information about geographic profiling provided above, where do you think that the murderer is most likely to live?"
5. The Police Investigation
This worksheet introduces Charles Warren and Sir Robert Anderson, the policemen in charge of the investigation. Students consider a detailed list of the measures that could have been taken and try to deduce which ones were simply not possible at the time; which ones were possible but which were vetoed by the Home Office and why; and which ones were actually taken but why they nevertheless failed. They then have to consider whether Queen Victoria was right to suggest that the police were failing to do all they could to catch the murderer.
6. Video Worksheet [1]: An overview of the Jack the Ripper murders and the investigation
This worksheet accompanies the first 40 minutes of the video available from here . It provides a good overview of the East End, the victims and the problems faced by the police.
7. What did Jack look like?
Using witness reports from the crime scenes along with visual sources from "Penny Dreadfuls" at the time, students build up their own physical profile of the killer. How old was he? What social background? What witnesses can be trusted? Why are there such discrepancies between the witness reports?
8. What was Jack's personality like?
Students analyse the gruesome "Dear Boss" letter to make deductions about Jack's character. Was he educated? Was he an egomaniac? Can we trust this evidence?
9. Other evidence about Jack
Students are presented with other key facts about Jack and use this to make their own deductions about the killer. These ideas can then serve as the basis for a lively discussion in class.

Who was Jack the Ripper? [interactive]
Armed with the profiles that they have built up, students go to this ActiveHistory Simulation which asks them a series of questions about what they think they now know about the personality and appearance of the Ripper. The computer then analyses their responses to present them with a list of the most likely suspects based on their preferences. The simulation also asks a series of factual questions as it progresses and gives them a score at the end. A worksheet accompanies the simulation, which also brings in fresh evidence such as the 1988 FBI profile, the 2006 EFIT profile and the coroner's reports. The simulation should occupy at least 30 minutes, and the follow-up debate a similar amount of time.


Crime Board: Who was Jack the Ripper?
As an alternative to producinga straightforward 'Wanted' poster for the killer following the computer simulation, students could instead consider producing a 'Crime Board' connecting the various pieces of evidence to different suspects to produce an overall theory.


12. Video Worksheet [2]: Who were the top suspects?
This worksheet accompanies the final 20 minutes of the video available from here. In this part of the documentary, the top suspects are suggested and the video narrator offers his own view on who the murderer was. This is a stimulating way of following the classroom debate and usually provides some lively discussion.
13. Consequences of the murders
A consolidating lesson which looks at the social outcomes of the Ripper murders.
14. Maxi-sourcework assessment
Complete with markscheme to test knowledge and understanding (1 hour).
15. Mini-Sourcework exercise on Jack the Ripper
Complete with markscheme to test knowledge and understanding (30 minutes).

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