This enquiry-led lesson really does make pupils think as historians. Not only are they introduced to authentic slave punishment records, they also have to test and then raise hypotheses of their own. They have to consider whether individual slave owners were kinder than normal by reference to comparative data, placing individuals on a kind-harsh spectrum. I am grateful to Simon Harrison, now  Deputy Headteacher at Swanmore Technology College, near Southampton, on whose original lesson this version is based.

I would also like to thank the Wilberforce Museum in Hull for making the original documents available to me. Work is in progress to create a database to take this enquiry further. For details see end of lesson.

Learning objectives

  • pupils learn to read original punishment records and to raise historical questions from raw data
  • they make comparative judgements based on contextual information
  • they test and then generate hypotheses of their own

Step 1

The lesson starts with a slow reveal of a well-known painting which sets the scene. Pupils have to deduce what they can about the expressions on the faces of people in the painting, before going on to ask questions such as: Did black men really whip slaves?


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