Customer Review

9 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcendent book - at last the definitive biography of General Haig, 7 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Douglas Haig and the First World War (Cambridge Military Histories) (Paperback)
Books about Haig tend to fall into one of two extremes, he is painted either as military idiot or the misunderstood far sighted visionary who won the war for Britain (Terraine). The vilification of Haig peaked with Dennis Winter's 'Haig's Command'. Since that date the Haig book market has been dominated by fawning 'Haigiographies' written by zealous Terrainistas driven by an urge to rehabilitate their man). What has been missing until now is an authoritative and balanced analysis of General Haig's genesis and wartime performance.

Paul Harris has now closed this ideological gap with a meticulously researched (yes, I am in a position to know) delicately nuanced and above all, balanced assessment covering not just Haig's military evolution and handling of the war but crucially his often troubled interaction with the political elite. As you might expect the analysis manages to be both academically satisfying while retaining sufficient lucidity to engage and maintain the interest the general reader, the mark of a transcendent book.
What emerges is the portrait of a fundamentally decent (if flawed) man who did his level best in circumstances that were not of his choosing. If Douglas Haig's level best fell short of what was actually required, it was not for want of effort.

Where criticism is offered, it is offered fairly. General Haig's role in the 1918 advance to victory is roundly praised while his handling of the later stages of the 1916 Somme and 1917 Ypres campaigns attracts justified criticism. Some people just can't bear the truth. The Haig Fellowship (yes, there is one) will hate it and you can safely ignore negative reviews on this site contributed by a couple of the more ardent revisionists. I have no doubt that this masterful work is destined to become the definitive biography of Douglas Haig and I recommend it for military historian and general reader alike.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Mar 2010 23:53:51 GMT
"Paul Harris has now closed this ideological gap with a meticulously researched (yes, I am in a position to know) ..."

Are you really, Clio? Tell us more! I think the game is given away, however, with your ludicrously over the top talk of Harris's book having " the mark of a transcendent book."

As to 'revisionists', it seems that you are unaware of the fact that it was the school of Haig iconoclasts who were the revisionists of his reputation, with Terraine's work marking the beginning of a restoration of the balance.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2010 18:51:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 30 Apr 2010 18:52:27 BDT
Clio says:
Predictable response from the Haig fan club - a very strange bunch of people and GAC is their equally barking cheerleader.

Ask yourself whether the evidence of CWGC cemeteries such as Poelkappel or Serre No 2 can be really equated with good generalship ?
You will have your views, I know I have mine

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2010 12:34:05 GMT
K. N. Crosby says:
Oh come on Clio, as the intensity of the British war effort increased from mid-1916, relative losses decreased. There may not have been much of a learning curve but there certainly was an equipment curve. This wasn't Haig's fault but it was his problem.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2011 07:58:08 BDT
Chris Green says:
there have been a number of instances where you have said that CWGC cemetaries evidence that Haig was a poor general. This is pretty ordinary thinking at best. At a basic level a cemetary simply demonstrates that a lot of people died. while the scale of the cemetaries certainly doesn't preclude poor generalship it's more than a little lazy to simply make the colossal leap that one is evidence of the other. it is inconceivable that anyone could defeat the German army without inflicting and suffering massive casualties. in order to make your point you're likely to have to work a little bit harder than this.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 17:30:19 GMT
Abu Hamza says:
Well said; a point for which the reviewer has no answer.
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