Brave new theory

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
Is received wisdom about the First World War - that British soldiers were "lions led by donkeys" - accurate? The question is being debated on The TES online staffroom, informed in part by a new book that takes a revisionist line on the issue.

The famous quotation, attributed to the German general Max Hoffman, is often used to suggest that the British infantry was betrayed by incompetent, uncaring generals during the Great War.

However, the idea has come under sustained fire in recent years, with historians, including Gary Sheffield, of King's College, London, arguing that leadership has been unfairly maligned.

The TES staffroom suggests both views should be presented to pupils. One poster argues that the traditional, populist line - that Haig and his fellow leaders were blundering buffoons - is too easily dismissed.

Another ventures that teachers should incorporate a new book, Through German Eyes: The British and the Somme, 1916, by Christopher Duffy, into lessons. It presents a view of the Battle of the Somme from mainly German sources.

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