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John Keegan, a modern military historian, suggests that Haig was an 'efficient and highly skilled soldier who did much to lead Britain to victory in the First World War'.Is there sufficient evidence in Sources C to L to support this interpretation?

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Introduction

Target 2: Evaluation of an interpretation for sufficiency John Keegan, a modern military historian, suggests that Haig was an 'efficient and highly skilled soldier who did much to lead Britain to victory in the First World War'. Is there sufficient evidence in Sources C to L to support this interpretation? There are those that believe Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig was 'the Butcher of the Somme', those who would agree with John Keegan's opinion of Haig and those who see arguments for both views. Sources D, F, G and J do not support Keegan's interpretation of Haig. Source D is a cartoon, the cartoonist clearly of the opinion that Haig was indeed 'the Butcher of the Somme'. So while it does not offer support to Keegan's opinion of Haig, the message of the cartoon is the opinion of the cartoonist and not necessarily the opinion of the general public. Source F is not as disparaging of Haig as sources D, G and J, but it is still critical of his actions. Livesey, a modern historian, believes that it was Haig's 'inability to recognise defeat', that led to him continuing his attacks at the Somme and Passchendaele, resulting in millions of casualties. ...read more.

Middle

Source E was written by Haig and is therefore a useful source as it is an insight into Haig's thinking as expressed by him. He wrote before the Battle of the Somme that ''The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists'. Saying this before the battle of the Somme, meant Haig knew the losses would be great, and he did not mislead anybody into thinking otherwise. He was an experienced soldier who knew the reality of war was that men had to die for any victories to be won. This agrees with Keegan's opinion of Haig as '...a highly skilled soldier'. Haig would not criticise himself however, and perhaps there are elements of truth in Source G where Lloyd George wrote that there were, '...individuals who would rather the million [soldiers] perish than that they as leaders should admit...that they were blunderers'. He was implying that Haig was one of these 'individuals' and his opinion is perhaps rooted in some truth as after the first day of battle at the Somme, Haig wrote, 'Very successful attack this morning...the battle is going very well for us'. This was not the case as, among other problems, there were 60,000 casualties, 20,000 of those deaths, on the first day of the battle. ...read more.

Conclusion

This clearly agrees with what Warburton wrote in Source K, that it is not as simple as placing all the blame on Haig for the mistakes in the first World war, but that the truth is that a myriad of people can be 'blamed' once you start to make the links. Source L does agree with Keegan's opinion to an extent in that Cooksey accounts Haig's achievements in the face of the problems and complications thrown at him, but at the same time he details Haig's failings as a commander which do not agree with Keegan's opinion. There is not enough sufficient evidence in sources C to L to support Keegan's interpretation of Haig, as there are sources which strongly oppose and support his opinion. Sources K and L are the most valuable sources to analyse and they both also support and oppose Keegan's opinion of Haig. It has to be concluded that while Keegan's opinion of Haig is not incorrect, as there is evidence to support what Keegan believes, there is also evidence which contradicts Keegan's view. Ultimately, there is not enough of one type of evidence in these sources to completely support Keegan's view or oppose it. ...read more.

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