Top critical review
52 people found this helpful
A retrograde step in the Haig historiography
on 9 March 2009
This book purports in its dustjacket blurb to be "the definitive biography of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig." It is not. It is in fact a poorly researched hatchet job, in which the most outlandish assertions - such as that Haig fomented 'mutiny' and 'treason' against Sir John French - are based upon references which do not stand up to scrutiny.
Harris manages, without substantiating it, to discount much of a whole school of Great War thinking amongst military historians on command and control which has grown up over the past quarter century - and in doing so he repudiates many of his own earlier writings on Haig's achievements.
In this new book, almost every achievement of Haig's which it is unavoidable for the author to make passing reference to is either prefaced or appended with a comment or observation which puts a pejorative spin on it. Quotes and references are highly selective and misleading and the book is clearly based largely upon secondary rather than any original archival work. As a result, it repeats the long exposed errors of earlier works and misses key parts of the primary sources upon which its conclusions purport to be based.
His footnotes reveal that Harris has relied heavily upon earlier works such as G. J. De Groot's and Denis Winter's for the conclusions put forward in his book. To enumerate all of the factual errors would require a virtual re-write of Harris' book. His references to primary sources - Esher's correspondence for instance - only go so far as other authors have used them, and as a result references to key documents which would give a different picture to that painted by Harris are missing.
As far as being a biased polemic which has every appearance of having been researched to support preconceived ideas goes, Harris' Haig is what one imagines Denis Winter's dreadful book transparently dressed up as an academic text would look like.