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Interpreting the Evidence

Canadian Tank, Arras, France

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Canadian Tank, Arras, France, May 31, 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Canadian tank pictured at Arras, France on May 31, 1918.
Historical Context
WWI was the veritable testing ground for a wide array of new technologies.  Chemical Weapons, machine guns, new acurate and powerful types of artillery and submarines were just a few of the weapons technology advancments that emerged during the Great War. Much like the American Civil War these new effective weapons were coupled with old and inneffective battlefield tactics. The result was high rates of casualties on both sides.
The Canadian tank was an intrepretation of the British Mark I tank, introduced to the war in 1916. It’s durable metal hull and tracked treds made it an ideal vechicle for breaking the stagnant nature of the trench warfare system. These metal monsters were very successful against small arm and machine gun fire and could conquer almost any terrain. They were however highly suceptible to mechanical failure and breakdowns. These were the forerunners to the modern tanks of today.
Essential Question
How does technology change the way wars are fought?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the ways in which tanks changed war strategies.
Historical Challenges
What do you imagine it would be like to be a soldier inside one of these early tanks? Would you feel invincible and safe knowing that the thick metal hull would provide good protection? Would you be worried about it breaking down and becoming a better target for heavy artillery? What do you think this experience would be like?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Technology: How similar are the tanks of today to the first generation Mark I tanks? What parts have they kept, and which parts have they improved on? Research and compare these two types of military vehicles.
Math: Research the number of tanks that were used by both sides in the war. Break the number down by how many were destroyed, how many broke down and how many made it through the war.