Like most people I know with an interest in History I have my ‘periods of interest’ and characters or places than fascinate me. I also have the unfortunate trait of being dismissive or simply uninterested in certain periods or individuals. One such individual is Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, who commanded the British Expeditionary Force on the western front from 1915 until the end of the First World War.
As a result of this dubious attitude on my part I initially skipped the article in by Gary Sheffield ‘Postwar Revolutionary?’ (in the October edition of the BBC History magazine), despite its rather intriguing title. It’s Haig, that’s enough to get me to look for a different article – even if it’s yet another one about the Tudors (which was actually rather good). I knew, as the article says in the opening paragraph, that the caricature of Haig in the popular mind has been shown to be grossly unfair, but still it’s Haig.
The thing is that, despite my rather doggy desire to dismiss such articles, another aspect of my character is to want to absorb, comprehend and challenge almost any history I encounter. If I visit or stay somewhere, see or hear something that I’m not familiar with I just have to look into its history. As a result, unless I’m ridiculously busy, I usually end up reading the History magazine from cover to cover – though I tend to avoid getting too absorbed in the letters page as it can get me going 🙂
So with most of the magazine read I did eventually turned back to Gary Sheffield’s article and in doing so found myself appreciating the history of post war Britain and the character of Haig in a new light. The article is well worth reading for the case it makes for Haig’s influence and for what he could but didn’t do in a turbulent period of British history. It was also a reminder to me that history, study and life is better when I remain open minded and liberal in my attitudes.