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Windschuttle at War: The Politics of Historiography in Australia

By Gary J. Ianziti

Abstract

Keith Windschuttle unleashed a storm of controversy with the publication of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Volume One, Van Diemen’s Land, 1803-1847 (2002; reprinted with corrections 2003). In a series of events unusual for works of this kind, Windschuttle’s book received considerable media exposure: almost immediately it became the focal point of impassioned debate. The debate moreover continues and promises to be with us for some time. The Fabrication is in fact the first of a projected series of volumes in which the author proposes to reexamine the early history of relations between White settlers and the indigenous populations of Australia (Windschuttle, 2003c: 3-4). The title Windschuttle chose for the book says a great deal about its contents. While purporting to rewrite a chapter of early Australian history, Windschuttle is in fact more concerned with examining recent Australian historiography. The Fabrication derives its power from being an act of accusation. Windschuttle’s real intent is to expose what he sees as gross malpractice within the Australian historical profession. His chief accusation is that a number of leading academic historians—including Lyndall Ryan and Henry Reynolds—have falsified the picture of race relations in early Australia. They have, according to Windschuttle, unduly over-emphasized conflict and violence as their main themes in discussing relations between Whites and Blacks. Windschuttle criticizes Ryan for using the term genocide to describe settler behavior towards the indigenous Tasmanians (Windschuttle, 2003c: 4, 13; Ryan, 1996: 255). He chastises Reynolds for depicting the Tasmanian Aborigines as engaged in a guerrilla war to defend their lands against the White invaders. He deplores the way both historians stress that British settlement of Tasmania proceeded through a process of physical elimination of the native populations

Topics: 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History, 160805 Social Change, 160609 Political Theory and Political Philosophy, aborigines, aboriginal history, white settlement, australian history, tasmania
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:636

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