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Lions Led by Donkeys?. V. By Mr RJ Huggins 2006. Lesson Objectives. Examine the process by which historians gather their evidence or facts in order to make a judgement. To assess John Laffin’s interpretation of General Haig in Source F, by comparing it to Sources G & H.

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Lions led by donkeys l.jpg

Lions Led by Donkeys?


By Mr RJ Huggins


Lesson objectives l.jpg
Lesson Objectives

  • Examine the process by which historians gather their evidence or facts in order to make a judgement.

  • To assess John Laffin’s interpretation of General Haig in Source F, by comparing it to Sources G & H.

  • Make a judgement on whether Sources G & H prove Source F (Laffin) wrong.

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How do historians gather their evidence in order to make a judgement?

There are two ways of writing history. One is to read and research, gathering facts and eventually coming to a weighed conclusion based on the burden of evidence. The other is to approach the subject with an idea in mind, and then to look for facts which prove the case.

Which one do you think is the best method?

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The Battle of the Somme, 1916 judgement?

  • In July 1916, the French army was close to collapse.

  • After the high casualty rate at the Battle of Verdun many troops were refusing to fight.

  • If the Germans attacked again then the French Army would be defeated and the allies would lose the war.

  • General Haig was ordered to divert the Germans away from Verdun by launching an attack on the Somme.

Why did Haig launch an attack on the Somme in 1916??

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Interpretation: Popular Image judgement?

  • Historians who criticize Haig’s tactics argue that he didn’t care about sacrificing the lives of his men.

  • They argue that his tactics were poor and that the Battle of the Somme was a waste of lives.

  • The popular image is that the British army only captured a few feet of soil and that Haig continued his tactics even when it was clear that they were not going to be successful.

  • However, these historians often do not take into account the bigger picture or in this case the Battle of Verdun, 1916.

  • By the end of the Battle of the Somme, the British Army had captured 70 square miles and the French had had just enough time to reorganise their army.

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The Task / Question judgement?

  • Study Sources F, G & H.

  • Do Sources G & H prove F wrong

‘You are going to look at three historians views of General Haig’s tactics at the Battle of the Somme. You are then going to look at the origin, nature and purpose of these sources to make a judgement on Source F.’

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Source F: judgement?

‘Haig was as stubborn as a donkey and as unthinking as a donkey. The principle which guided him was if he could kill more Germans than the Germans could kill his own men, then he would at some point win the win. That is an appalling kind of strategy. Its not a strategy at all, its slaughter. The Somme was criminal negligence. He knew that he had no chance of a breakthrough, but he still sent his men to their deaths.’

From a recent book called: Butchers and Bunglers of World War.

What does the title

of the book

suggest about

the authors aims?

What is the author’s view of Haig’s tactics?

Origin nature purpose of source f l.jpg

Does not have a history degree judgement?

‘Butchers & Bunglers’ is an eye grabbing title

An Australian tour guide

Laffin presents one side only. He does not discuss the situation at Vedun.

The author’s parents both served with the Australians in Gallipoli and France

The book aims to expose the ‘guilt’ of the ‘uncaring and stupid’ generals

Origin, Nature & Purpose of Source F

John Laffin

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Source G: judgement?

‘If the Battle of the Somme had no great importance in the strategic sense, its consequences were great, particularly regards morale. It gave the Western Powers confidence. Their armies had accomplished an achievement that gave good promise for the future. The confidence of the German troops in victory was no longer as great as before. A great part of the best, most experienced and most reliable officers and men were no longer in their places. This was the more marked as the heavy losses had made it necessary to send to the front a great number of young soldiers whose training was poor.

Taken from The Official German History of the FWW

What is the aim

of an official


Origin nature purpose of source g l.jpg

Based upon interviews with generals, soldiers and politicians.

Written & published in the 1930s.

Not written for commercial reasons or profit

Understands the bigger picture and refers indirectly to Verdun.

Points out both the good and the bad points of the Battle of the Somme

Written to inform the German people. Does it have a reason to lie or exaggerate?

Origin, Nature & Purpose of Source G

The Official German

History of the FWW

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Source H politicians.

‘Germany’s spirit of resistance was broken by the courage and resolution of Haig’s armies, which had complete confidence in the leadership of their Commander. They were inspired by his determination, for he never wavered from his purpose of breaking down the powers of resistance of the enemy, both morally and physically. Had Haig not had the moral courage to shoulder the main burden of the struggle in the Somme battles of 1916, French resistance would have crumbled. Haig was one of the main architects of the Allied victory.’

Written by a British General in 1973. He fought in both world wars.

What points does this historian make about Haig’s tactics?

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He had fought in both world wars. politicians.

Written by a British General in 1973

He had witnessed Haig’s tactics at first hand.

Was not writing to make money, just wanted to set the record straight

As a military commander he understood the problems facing Haig in 1916.

Takes into account what was happening at Verdun & points out that Haig’s tactics eventually won the war.

Origin, Nature & Purpose of Source H

British General

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Source F politicians.

Source G

Source H

British General

Haig is a donkey who slaughtered his men

The Somme didn’t achieve very much tactically, but it damaged German morale and helped to boost the allies morale – hints the French - and win the war.

The Somme was an evil necessity. If Haig hadn’t attacked then the French would have crumbled. Haig’s tactics won the war.

Brilliant General


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Making a Judgement politicians.

Do Sources G & H prove F wrong?

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Mark Scheme politicians.