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History Sourcework- Field Marshal Haig Final

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Introduction

Coursework Assignment- Model A Britain and the First World War- Field Marshal Douglas Haig. 1). Sources A and C are vastly different in their views on Haig. Source A shows Haig riding in a peace procession in 1918, with a crowd cheering. One strength of it is showing that Haig was respected as a commander, as he had led Britain to victory. However, it also has weaknesses. A small proportion of British people attended, and their views would not be reflected in the entire population. It is also likely that they were cheering out of relief for the war's end, rather than for Haig. In conclusion on A, at the time Haig was revered as a hero, as it was him who had gained Britain victory. Source C gives a very different view. It is an extract from "Blackadder Goes Forth", illustrating a British soldier ridiculing Haig's plans. It has two main points to back up its argument, the first criticising Haig's planning: "...Would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy...?"... "It's the same plan that we used last time, and seventeen times before that!" This demonstrates that soldiers were sceptical about Haig and that they believed that they were going to die for no real purpose. However, other soldiers' accounts support Haig, such as diary entries and accounts by surviving veterans and it has been proven that tactical failure came more from false optimism than idiocy. ...read more.

Middle

Despite this, a photo does not show how much of the success in the war was down to him, not representing individual campaigns. Therefore, this source does not really prove or disprove the proposed interpretation. Source B, a newspaper extract claiming that Haig was well supported by his men, and never criticised seems to disprove the interpretation. However, the purpose and reliability of the source is of huge importance, and in this case goes against its usefulness. The source is by Earl Haig, his son, so it is immediately unbalanced. Firstly, his comments about never hearing a word of criticism from the veterans are in doubt, as it is highly unlikely that they would criticise his father to his face. Secondly, he himself would never criticise his father, and was probably trying to drum up support. Therefore, the source is rendered useless, and cannot be used in evidence. However, many soldiers did support Haig, and single accounts and interviews with veterans have shown this, and those points are much more balanced and to likely to be true than an article such as Source B. Sources C, D and F are very similar, using satire of Haig to try and get their respective points across. In Source C it is Captain Blackadder abusing Haig, using quotes like: "...Would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy...?" However despite it being a comedy for all intents and purposes, it can be used as evidence within the interpretation, as it portrays a view of Haig that some had and still have. ...read more.

Conclusion

Firstly, suggesting Haig alone was responsible for all the deaths on the British side is ridiculous, and Britain in fact lost the least men, 1 million in comparison to Germany with 1.8 million, for example. As well as this, it was Haig's training that put his methods together, not his own tactical "whims". He was, as the source states, the product of his time, and he was never sacked, showing he cannot have got things entirely wrong. The source finally states the most important point of them all; he was victorious, and therefore his leadership cannot have been a misfortune. Therefore the sources both prove and disprove the interpretation, and being balanced give a fairer reflection on Haig. In conclusion, after studying the evidence, I disagree that "It was the misfortune of the British Empire that during the crucial phases of the First World War its military destiny was in the hands of Douglas Haig". The sources may criticise Haig in places, but no general is perfect at what he does, and no war can be fought without any loss of life. In addition, many of the sources that do criticise Haig are either propaganda, in the case of Lloyd George, or not meant to be historically accurate, such as sources C, D and F. Finally, the final source, J, is the most important in disproving the interpretation. Haig was a victorious General, and this made the British Empire and Commonwealth victorious. Therefore, the British Empire cannot have been at a total misfortune to have him holding its military destiny, as proven by the sources and other evidence. ?? ?? ?? ?? James Hansen 10GA Mrs Ball ...read more.

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