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Reassuring "White Australia": a Review of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Volume One, Van Diemen's Land 1803-1847.

In 1996, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, used the annual Sir Robert Menzies Lecture to make the following observations about Australian history:
 [There is a challenge] to ensure that our history as a nation is
 not rewritten definitively by those who take the view that
 Australians should apologise for most of it. This 'black armband'
 view of our past reflects a belief that most of Australian history
 since 1788 has been little more than a disgraceful history of
 imperialism, exploitation, racism, sexism and other forms of
 discrimination. I take a very different view. I believe that
 the balance sheet of our history is one of heroic achievement
 and that we have achieved much more as a nation of which we can
 be proud than of which we should be ashamed. (1)

The Prime Minister's remarks echoed those of conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey, who in 1993 linked the "Black Armband View of History" with those who celebrated multiculturalism. (2) Both Prime Minister Howard and Professor Blainey have articulated for many Australians a sense of anxiety about their place in a multicultural society. Critical of liberal immigration policies, multicultural education, and the politics of Aboriginal land rights, those on the right of Australian politics have taken issue with historians who focus on issues like racism and sexism, issues they consider to be "politically correct." For Prime Minister Howard, the "facts" of Australian history have been lost amid this overemphasis on "issues." (3) This self-serving position is shared by Keith Windschuttle in his new book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. (4)

The Fabrication of Aboriginal History is the first volume of a projected series that will reevaluate the history of Australian Aborigines since 1788. Volume one focuses on Van Diemen's Land (renamed Tasmania in 1855) between 1803-1847. Windschuttle rejects the last thirty years of historical scholarship that, since the 1970s, has challenged the idea of Aboriginal passivity in the face of European colonization. According to the pre-1970s orthodoxy, Aborigines were "driven from the more fertile parts of the continent' into the arid interior, where they 'vanished like shadows in the bush.' " (5) In the 1970s, scholars began to reassess such views. In 1972 M.C. Hartwig published an important essay that placed Aboriginal history since 1788 in the context of racism, imported to Australia by the English. (6) Similarly, in the early 1970s C.D. Rowley published a "three-volume report to the Social Sciences Research Council on 'Aboriginal Policy and Practice.' " (7) Entitled The Destruction of Aboriginal Society, Rowley's work shattered the previous orthodoxy that had rested on "the twin legends of heroic pioneers and an egalitarian society." (8) Following Hartwig and Rowley's lead, subsequent Australian historians have produced a voluminous historiography that has rescued Aborigines from their former status as "a melancholy anthropological footnote." (9) These historians portray Aboriginal people as active agents in shaping the history of European-indigenous relations.

The recent historiography of European-Aboriginal con tacts in Tasmania highlights this shift in historical focus. Historians Sharon Morgan, Henry Reynolds, Lloyd Robson, and Lyndall Ryan argue that colonial Van Diemen's Land was "an extremely violent society" in which the "bloody flagellation of convicts was common, because it was a cheap and efficient method of punishment which did not lead to the victim being absent from work very long." Similarly, public execution by hanging was not unheard of, constituting an efficient means of ridding "the colony of malefactors." (10) Despite this violence, most historians agree that the British acquisition of land did not result in major conflict with Tasmanian Aborigines until the 1820s. (11) By then, British settlements, with their fences and hedgerows, expanded into the Tasmanian bush. (12) Thereafter British pastoralism grew rapidly, disrupting Aboriginal society, and sparking violent conflicts. (13) This violence fueled settler paranoia and hysteria, resulting in what contemporaries called the "Black War." Responding to Aboriginal violence, which Henry Melville described as "Guerilla war" in his 1836 book The History of Van Diemen's Land, the government of Van Diemen's Land declared martial law in 1828, a decision that gave rise to "roving search and capture parties." (14) Their "final solution," according to Lloyd Robson, was the "Black Line." By "forming a line of soldiers and civilians across the island," the British hoped that the "most hostile Aboriginal bands [could be driven] in a south-easterly direction towards and then across the narrow isthmus on to Tasman and Forestier's Peninsulas." (15) Scholars divide over the success of the Black Line, some arguing that it was a military failure (capturing only two Aborigines), (16) while others contend it achieved its objective of "clearing the settled districts of the Aborigines." (17) Historians similarly disagree over the number of Aborigines killed in the 1820s and 1830s, some estimating that the figure could be as high as 700. (18)

Keith Windschuttle challenges this historiography in The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. Roughly chronological in format, Windschuttle jumps from refuting massacres, such as Risdon Cove in 1804, to denigrating the character of Aborigines--"Black bushrangers"--to criticizing historical scholarship, to analysis of settler opinion, to refuting the Aboriginal death toll. He concludes with an attack on Aboriginal land rights politics which sends a message to "Tasmanians of British descent that they no longer retain their founding sites, but emphasizes they are trespassers." (19) This melange makes for a disjointed read, but for the purposes of clarity, I will assess Windschuttle's refutation of British massacres of Aboriginal people; a counter narrative to the "orthodox school;" and his commentary on the culture war over Aboriginal history and politics.

Windschuttle argues that claims of massacres and guerrilla warfare demonstrate how the "orthodox school" has politicized Aboriginal history, taking liberties with the evidence. (20) Windschuttle accuses the "orthodox school" of being "vain and self-indulgent," and also "arrogant, patronizing and lazy." (21) Challenging their estimates of Aboriginal deaths, Windschuttle writes:
 When it comes to assessing the total number of deaths that [Chief
 Protector] Robinson recorded from both black and white informants,
 the historians of the orthodox school do not produce a head count
 but fall back on rhetoric and unsupported generalisations. The
 worst offender is, again, Lyndall Ryan who is actually a far
 greater amplifier of violence than Robinson ever dared to be. (22)

Windschuttle implies that the "orthodox school" has conspired to inflate the number of Aboriginal deaths. Thus by focusing on the moral authority of the historian, Windschuttle distracts his readers from serious consideration of the meaning and impact of European colonization on indigenous Australians. This strategy is consistent with Windschuttle's political agenda which is embodied in his discomfort with the way the "orthodox school," by inflating Aboriginal massacres, impugns Australian identity and its virtuous Anglo-Saxon origins. (23) In contrast, Windschuttle aims to construct a history of Australia that highlights the nation's "virtues," which had their antecedents in "the calibre of civilization Britain brought to these shores in 1788." (24) Windschuttle thus positions himself as an objective student of the "facts" of Aboriginal history, but as E. H. Carr has noted, the historian "is necessarily selective" in deciding which facts to emphasize. (25) Indeed, Windschuttle privileges the opinions of settlers and colonial officials, found primarily in the British Parliamentary Papers, and at the same time, rejects Aboriginal oral histories.

For example, Winsdschuttle begins his reassessment of massacres in Aboriginal historiography at Risdon Cove in May 1804. (26) Official sources, Windschuttle argues, do not report a massacre. As Windschuttle sees it, the violence at Risdon Cove was a misunderstanding. He argues:
 Overall, the weight of the evidence does not support the
 interpretation about the Risdon Cove conflict now current
 in history books and the news media. It was not a slaughter
 of 'up to fifty' innocent men, women, and children. It was a
 defensive action by the colonists in which three Aborigines
 were shot dead and at least one, though possibly more, wounded.

Only decades after the event, when settlers reminisced about the early years of settlement, Windschuttle asserts, did the death toll at Risdon Cove rise to levels suggestive of a massacre. Windschuttle depicts Risdon Cove as an example of beleaguered settlers forced to defend themselves against capricious and uncivilized indigenes. That the British Parliamentary Papers record nothing that resembles a massacre is, for Windschuttle, proof enough that none occurred. (28) This is a very different story from the one told by historians Henry Reynolds and Lloyd Robson. Drawing from similar evidence, Reynolds and Robson note that Aborigines were indeed fired upon. According to Lloyd Robson, the "onslaught on the Aborigines," ordered by Lt. William Moore, was remembered by eyewitnesses to be a product of the Lieutenant's intoxication. Robson explains, "some thought it was the effect of a half-drunken spree and that the firing arose from a brutal desire 'to see the Niggers run.' (29) By ignoring such data, Windschuttle demonstrates how he too eschews documentary evidence that contradicts his own ideology and argument.

Windschuttle challenges other massacre stories, targeting especially Henry Reynolds's Fate of a Free People, which emphasized the "infamous Cape Grim massacre in the far north-west of the colony" in 1828. (30) While not denying Aborigines died at Cape Grim, Windschuttle again minimizes the number killed. He thus challenges Chief Protector Robinson's account which claimed that thirty Aborigines had been killed at Cape Grim. (31) Interpreting photographs, Windschutde contends that "Aborigines would have seen [an attack] coming and would have had time to escape by swimming to the other side of the bay or out to sea." (32) Windschuttle also dismisses eyewitness accounts, gathered after the massacre from Aboriginal women and recorded in the diaries of Chief Protector Robinson. Windschuttle insists that these women, like Wayler "the Aboriginal amazon," had massacred "both whites and other Aborigines," and had lived in concubinage with white sealers. By bringing into question the moral authority of Aboriginal women--and Aboriginal oral sources generally--Windschuttle both assails the "orthodox school"--whose scholars have used Aboriginal oral evidence--and positions his own narrative as an objective retelling of the facts. (33)

Windschuttle's counter narrative expresses three broad themes: first, he posits that British settlers in Van Diemen's Land adhered to the principles of the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on the equality of all men; second, he argues that Van Diemen's Land was settled at a time when Evangelical Christianity dominated British thought; finally, Windschuttle argues that British settlers cherished the idea of equality before the law. (34) According to Windschuttle, these three themes rendered British settlement humane and just. On the first of these themes, Enlightenment thinking, Windschuttle writes:
 In Australia, as in the United States of America, the
 Enlightenment's belief in human equality was held not in
 opposition to Christianity but, rather, was a principle
 disseminated through the churches themselves and through their
 campaigns for social reform. (35)

In fact, comparison with the United States is more revealing than Windschuttle intends. Consider, for example, Thomas Jefferson, the most famous student of Enlightenment thinking in the United States. The author of the Declaration of Independence, and third President of the United States, Jefferson saw in African slaves a people whose "difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us." The Negro, marked by his "colour," had been endowed by the Creator, Jefferson claimed, with an inferior beauty, emitted a "disagreeable odour," was "ardent" in the realm of love, and lacked reason. (36) While Jefferson held that Native Americans could be elevated to a higher level of civilization--arguing in 1803 that Native Americans must "blend together, to intermix" with white Americans or be crushed (37)--his social reformism was not guided by principles of racial egalitarianism, writing:
 No inferior race of men can exist in these United State without
 becoming subordinate to the will of the Anglo-Americans, or
 foregoing many of the necessities and comforts of life. They must
 either be our equals or our dependents. It is so with the negroes
 in the South; it is so with the Irish in the North; it was so
 with the Indians in New England; and it will be so with the
 Chinese in California. (38)

For Windschuttle, the Black Line of 1830-1831 (see above) exemplified "humanitarian" thinking in Van Diemen's Land. He argues that it aimed to drive the "Big River and Oyster Bay tribes" out of "the southern midlands and south-east regions." (39) Achieving this objective, Governor Arthur then hoped to "put the two tribes he was targeting onto a closed reserve where they could practice their traditional way of life but would not be able to harass white settlers." (40) Windschuttle fails to recognize that these reserves were racialized spaces, designed to keep Aborigines from disrupting the lives of British settlers and the Anglo-Saxon narrative of community they were constructing. Aborigines were considered unworthy members of British settler society in Van Diemen's Land, constituted a form of social pollution--attacking and stealing from innocent settlers--and carrying biological pollutants like venereal disease. (41) If the reserves embodied Enlightenment ideas, then they also highlighted its darker side of classification and racial hierarchy.

The rise of pastoralism in the 1820s, and the development of reservations, according to the "orthodox school," dosed white society to Aborigines. Windschuttle takes issue with this view, arguing that pastoralism did not consume Aboriginal hunting grounds and did not result in their dispossession. Windschuttle even denies the existence of fences or hedgerows, meant to excluding Aborigines from the land. (42) Windschuttle asserts that violence was perpetuated by Aborigines possessing a "savage spirit." (43) Aborigines, like the non-tribal (read: inauthentic) Musquito, were outlaws, stealing commodities like flour, and destroying livestock not because of starvation, but because they were common criminals. (44) If Aborigines were really starving, Windschuttle asks, why did they not eat the sheep and cattle that they had killed? Surely a "leg of lamb and fillet of beef" would have been to their liking? (45) In fact, Sharon Morgan has shown that Aborigines often did eat the sheep and cattle they killed. She notes that in "November 1815 it was reported that Natives had killed and eaten 930 sheep." (46) It is also true, as historians note, that hunger does not simply refer to an absence of food. Eating is often a communal activity and as such the expansion of British settlement and the creation of reservations shattered previous communal bonds. In this sense, Aboriginal hunger may have been a longing for something more than simply food. (47) Second, the absence offences and hedgerows did not mean that English settlers lacked an understanding of their property and who should and should not be allowed to pass over it. In The Road to Botany Bay, Paul Carter makes this clear, observing that in Australia, "the extensive enclosure the name 'plain' implied was visible, finite, fixed and possessable. In consequence, the traveler could locate himself in a landscape. He could possess the view merely by looking." (48)

Thus, despite Windschuttle's denials, the rise of pastoralism ushered in an era of heightened racial animus towards Aborigines. This made it difficult for Aborigines, many of whom had made attempts to adapt and incorporate British culture into their understanding of the world, to sustain a reasonable standard of living. (49) Aboriginal attacks, therefore, were driven by desperation and frustration, the products of being locked out of the society many had endeavored to accommodate themselves to, as much as they embodied resistance. (50)

Windschuttle also insists that Christian Evangelicalism informed British attitudes towards Aborigines. Such beliefs ensured "a culture that fostered restraint" existed in colonial Van Diemen's Land. (51) He reasons that if settlers reacted violently, it must have been in self-defense. As Windschuttle puts it: "In every case, even the hardest attitudes were generated solely by the desire to stop the blacks from assaulting and murdering whites." (52) Windschuttle contends that Christian Evangelicalism led settlers in Van Diemen's Land to help and protect the natives. Such expressions appeared in Colonial Office instructions regarding the treatment of Aborigines, and in missionary efforts to civilize Aborigines. In 1810, for example, instructions from the Colonial Office to Lieutenant-Governor David Collins, ordered Collins to use the full force of the law to prosecute those who "shall in cool blood murder" Aboriginal people. (53) However, Collins's instructions gave settlers a compelling motive to cover-up racial violence. (54) Indeed, settlers often suppressed evidence about the massacre of Aboriginal people. Even in personal diaries, self-censorship on such matters was not uncommon. (55)

Windschuttle highlights the Evangelical desire to convert the Aborigines. From Chief Protector Robinson to the average landowner, Windschuttle posits that the Evangelical spirit imbued English settlers with the sense that Aborigines were their "brothers" under God, deserving the joys of Christianity and the light of civilization. (56) Placed on Flinders Island, the Aboriginal people came under the protection of Chief Protector Robinson who vowed to protect the Aborigines from the colonists---contradicting Windschuttle's construction of settlers as honest, moral and virtuous. (57) On Flinders Island, Windschuttle claims that Aboriginal people enjoyed warmer and dryer weather than that experienced in Van Diemen's Land, were well fed, and generally treated better than the white convicts present on the island. (58) Such descriptions stand in stark contrast to the "orthodox school" who, like Lyndall Ryan, refer to "gaol-like conditions" on Flinders Island. (59)

The desire to convert Aborigines to Christianity was consistent with a deep-seated British ethno-centrism. (60) Ideas about religious difference constituted an important element in British racism, expressed through cultural forms like Christianity. This made it possible to come to terms with the duality of a religion preaching equality before God, but which presided over inequality on earth. To the British, however, this duality was not a contradiction, for as Winthrop Jordan explains: "Social stability always depended upon maintenance of rigid distinction between two spheres, a distinction which rationalized the equality of souls with the inequality of persons." (61) Moreover, the evangelical mission to convert indigenous people represented no desire on the part of European colonizers to foster racial equality. John and Jean Comaroff demonstrate this in their study of South Africa, arguing that "social amelioration" was driven by a desire to heal the "blighted body" of the indigene which "served as a graphic symptom of moral disorder." This brings us back to my earlier point about Aboriginal pollution, and explains why missionary efforts focused intensively on indigenous women. By treating "the black female physique as a natural site for explorations in pathology," exploring and mastering that pathology stood as a sign that Europeans could master the unknown, thereby gaining control over it. (62) Moreover, such control made it possible for the British to instill in Aboriginal people a sense of obligation toward their racial superiors. Michael Marrus has discussed this psychology in his insightful study of the Jewish community in France in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, arguing that not only is a sense of obligation and dependence created among racialized groups, but that such a construct made it possible for the dominant social group to blame subordinate social group for social ills. (63) This psychology appeared in master/slave relationships throughout the Americas in the nineteenth century, in attitudes throughout the British Empire in the 1840s and 1850s after "the apparent 'failure' of [slave] emancipation in the West Indies," and in the "humanitarian" and evangelical ideals of British settlers in Van Diemen's Land. (64)

Finally, Windschuttle emphasizes the formal equality of Aborigines before the law. Echoing current debates about the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children in the twentieth century, Windschuttle argues that ideas of equality before the law appeared in 1813 when Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Davey "issued a proclamation about reports that settlers had stolen Aboriginal children." The proclamation railed against those committing such "barbarous crimes" for they had "stained the honour of his country and himself." (65) Documents of this nature, however, do not sustain Windschuttle's virtuous settler thesis. Instead, they demonstrate that citizenship was hollow for Aborigines. As John Chesterman and Brian Galligan explain, the
 Australian people have never, at the colonial, state or
 Commonwealth level, adopted a constitutional or legislative
 statement outlining the rights and responsibilities of British
 subjecthood or Australian citizenship. Rather, 'British subject'
 and then 'Australian citizen' have been empty categories to which
 citizenship rights and entitlements have been attached, or in the
 case of 'aboriginal natives' denied, in supplementary legislation.

While Aborigines enjoyed equality before the law in theory, in practice the opposite was clearly the case. As the Australian colonies developed this pattern could be seen in government desires to protect Aborigines, while denying them the rights of citizenship. In Victoria, as in Van Diemen's Land, Aborigines "occupied the special position of 'protected persons' rather than citizens." (67) Nineteenth century liberalism, with its emphasis on equality before the law, was therefore elitist and conservative. Historian George Fredrickson makes this point in relation to the United States, noting:
 In October 1865, the Nation, edited by the transplanted Englishman
 E.L. Godkin, described Northern Reconstruction aims in the
 following terms: 'What we do seek for the negro is equality before
 the law, such as prevails between a Parisian water-carrier and the
 Duc de Rohan, or between a London cabman and the Earl of Derby.

Equality before the law, therefore, was congruent with racial inequality, making it possible for the British to incorporate indigenous people into their society, while ensuring the racial privilege of white settlers. (69)

The Fabrication of Aboriginal History is the most recent scholarly contribution in an Australian culture war over Aboriginal land rights and the place of indigenous people in Australia's historical narrative. The debate over Aboriginal politics and history involves a struggle over how we "order our lives together," and by implication, "a clash over national life itself." (70) Windschuttle's position in this debate should by now be clear, but it should be noted that this book synthesizes views that Windschuttle has expressed in the conservative publications Quadrant and The New Criterion. In these publications he has railed against "hardened ideologues" who espouse multiculturalism in education and emphasize the "struggle against discrimination, exploitation, and hostility" in Western countries. (71) This contempt for the "politically correct" is revisited in the epilogue of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. Titled "Heritiage, Genealogy and Black Intellectual Authoritarianism," this chapter expresses the right wing populism of white Australians who feel their racially privileged position in society is under attack. Consider, for example, Windschuttle's discussion of the increasing Aboriginal population in Tasmania. While acknowledging that Aboriginal ancestry is no longer a badge of inferiority, the main reason for the increase is the "more generous welfare payments available to Aborigines than to whites." (72) He presents no evidence to support this claim. More serious is Windschuttle's argument that Aboriginal land rights victories tell "Tasmanians of British descent that they no longer retain their founding site, but emphasizes they are trespassers." (73) That these land claims are made by Aboriginal people of dubious ancestry increases Windschuttle's anger. But there is indeed a mixed race population in Tasmania today, most of whom are descended from unions between white sealers and Aborigines in the nineteenth century. (74) They embody the dynamic nature of cultural and social change, representing a continual presence in Tasmania that strengthens indigenous land rights claims. Land claims in Australia are predicated, among other things, on the assumption that Aborigines can prove continued occupation of that land and the maintenance of traditional customs. (75) But no social group maintains a static culture in this way. Culture is dynamic, changing over time. Aboriginal adaptation to settler culture exemplifies this process, resulting in cultural changes for both Aboriginal people and settlers. (76) Viewed from this perspective, Aborigines have enjoyed a continuous occupation of the land. Failure to acknowledge this occupation is, put simply, racist. This conceptualization of the land rights issue would no doubt trouble many white Australians. It also explains the popularity of the "static-fragile conception of 'tribal' society" among many white Australians, which, as Denis Byrne explains, constitutes a "wishful vision of a precolonial order swept away":
 The notion of a precolonial Indigenous intelligence persisting in
 'settled' eastern Australia in the form of a signified landscape
 'inside' the colonial landscape is in some ways subversive; that
 this signification might include the borrowing and
 recontextualisation of elements of the coloniser's own culture
 threatens the perceived solidity of that culture and hence, in a
 sense, its right to be there. (77)

This brings us to the heart of the issue. Windschuttle, like Prime Minister Howard, wishes to portray Australia as a virtuous, moral, and heroic nation. He does this by denying the existence of Aboriginal massacres, and by implication, that Aborigines had any reason to resist. Moreover, his use of historical sources, as I have shown, is at times anachronistic. The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, then, is a therapeutic history for white (Anglo-Saxon) Australians that distorts and distracts. (78)


I wish to thank Brian Behnkin, John Smolenski, Alan Taylor, and Clarence Walker for their insightful comments on early drafts of this paper.

(1.) Prime Minister Howard quoted in Jon Stratton, Race Daze: Australia in Identity Crisis (Annandale, NSW, 1998), 122.

(2.) Quoted in Ibid., 120.

(3.) Ray Cassin, "Memo Mr Howard: Facts can Interfere with a Good Story," The Sunday Age, April 30, 2000, 14.

(4.) Keith Windschuttle, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Volume One, Vand Diemen's Land 1803-1847 (Sydney, 2002).

(5.) A.G.L. Shaw, The Story of Australia (London, 1961), 24, and M. Barnard, History of Australia (Sydney, 1962, 651 quoted in R.H.W. Reece, "The Aborigines in Australian Historiography in John A. Moses (ed.), Historical Disciplines and Culture in Australasia: An Assessment (St. Lucia, QLD, 1979), 253. Reece draws this information from the Australian Encyclopedia (Sydney, 1958, vol. 1), 187. The view that Aborigines were a dying race was widely held. See for instance Ernest Scott, A Short History of Australia (7th Edition, Melbourne, 1947). For the most recent historical analysis of the "doomed race" theory see Russell McGregor, Imagined Destinies: Aboriginal Australians and the Doomed Race Theory, 1880-1939 (Melbourne, 1997).

(6.) M.C. Hartwig, "Aborigines and Racism: An Historical Perspective" in F.S. Stevens (ed.), Racism: The Australian Experience (vol. II, Sydney, 1972). English attitudes about the blackness of Australian Aborigines can be glimpsed in Tim Flannery (ed.), Watkin Tench: 1788 (Melbourne, [1789] 1996), 52-53; Lloyd Robson, A History of Tasmania: Volume I, Van Diemen s Land from the Earliest Times to 1855 (Melbourne, 1983), 13-14.

(7.) Reece, "The Aborigines in Australian Historiography," 266.

(8.) Rowley's The Destruction of Aboriginal Society: Aboriginal Policy and Practice (Canberra, 1970), quoted in Reece, "The Aborigines in Australian Historiography," 267.

(9.) J.A. La Nauze,"The Study of History, 1929-1959," Historical Studies, 9,33 (November 1959), 11.

(10.) Lloyd Robson, A Short History of Tasmania (Melbourne, 1985), 20-21.

(11.) Sharon Morgan, Land Settlement in Early Tasmania: Creating an Antipodean England (Cambridge, 1992), 143; N.J.B. Plomley, The Aboriginal Settler Clash in Van Diemen's Land, 1803-1831 (Launceston, 1992), 6; Henry Reynolds, Fate of a Free People (Ringwood, VIC, 1995), 28-30.

(12.) Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 31.

(13.) Lyndall Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians (2nd Edition, Crows Nest, 1996), 83.

(14.) Henry Melville, The History of Van Diemen's Land: From the Year 1824 to 1835, Inclusive During the Administration of Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur (Book One, edited by George Mackaness, Sydney, 1959), 27 [emphasis in original]. See also Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 66; Lloyd Robson, A History of Tasmania, 212; Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, 101.

(15.) Robson, A History of Tasmania, 215,218-220; Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 117.

(16.) Robson, A History of Tasmania, 220; Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 78, 118.

(17.) Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, p. 112.

(18.) Ibid., 174. Henry Reynolds notes that the best historians can do in this respect is to come up with estimates. See Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 76, 81.

(19.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, p. 418.

(20.) Ibid., 4, 402, passim.

(21.) Ibid., 404,406.

(22.) Ibid., 284.

(23.) It is not uncommon to hear Australians in our time talk of their nation's Anglo-Celtic heritage; however, it must be stressed that this is not part of Windschuttle's conceptualization of a virtuous Australian nation. Windschuttle's construction of an Anglo-Saxon Australia goes back to nineteenth century images of the Irish as convicts and of peasant origin. See for example Beverley Kingston, The Oxford History of Australia: Glad, Confident Morning 1860-1900 (Volume 3, Melbourne, 1993), 124. This point can also be seen in James Bischoff, Sketch of the History of Van Diemens Land, Illustrated by a Map of the Island, and an Account of the Van Diemens Land Company (London, 1832), 35, which argues that "Bushrangers," who were often ex-convicts, and Aborigines, were the most significant early difficulties encountered by settlers in Van Diemen's Land.

(24.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 3. Windschuttle's conceptualization of early Australia is in stark contrast to earlier accounts, like that of Manning Clark, who described early colonial Australia as a society in which "life was brutish and short, that it was one of wretchedness and squalor." C.M.H. Clark, A History of Australia: From the Earliest Times to the Age of Macquarie (Volume I, Melbourne, 1962), 243. Contemporaries, like the Reverend Samuel Marsden, senior chaplain of New South Wales, complained in 1829 that "Drunkenness and whoredom are the two sins to which the unguarded missionary is the most exposed, and particularly the latter sin amongst the heathen [Aborigines]." Marsden quoted in Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience (Manchester, 1992), 100-101. See also Robert Aldrich, Colonialism and Homosexuality (London, 2003), chapter 7. On the issue of historical objectivity Windschuttle cites, for example, Henry Reynolds, who in his 1981 book The Other Side of the Frontier claimed that his "book was not conceived, researched or written in a mood of detached scholarship. It is inescapably political dealing as it must with issues that have aroused deep passions since 1788 and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Ibid., 6. Windschuttle fails to point out that Reynolds went on to say that "Many people may find it an uncomfortable book. It will challenge myths and prejudices embraced by both white and black communities and in so doing may please neither" Henry Reynolds, The Other Side of the Frontier: Aboriginal Resistance to the European Invasion of Australia (Ringwood, VIC, [1981] 1996), 1.

(25.) Edward Hallett Cart, What is History? (New York, 1963), 10. See also Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore, 1978), chapter 2; Leo Spitzer, Lives in Between: The Experience of Marginality in a Country of Emancipation (New York, 1989), 8-9; Mark Beivr, 'Objectivity in History, History and Theory, 33, 3 (October 1994), 329-332; Richard J. Evans, In Defence of History (London, 1997), 76.

(26.) For examples of "orthodox school" historiography concerning the Risdon Cove massacre see for example Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, 75, 174; Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 76-77; Robson, A History of Tasmania, chapter 3.

(27.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 26.

(28.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 26, 40-42, 58.

(29.) Robson, A History of Tasmania, 46; Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 76-77.

(30.) Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 79-80.

(31.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 253. On Robinson's work with Aborigines more generally see Vivienne Rae-Ellis, Black Robinson: Protector of Aborigines (Carlton South, VIC,1988).

(32.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 282,259-261,259.

(33.) Denying the reliability of historical evidence of racialized groups is a tactic used by historians to discredit historical accounts that do not fit with their presentist morality. This has been the case in the United States, where debate has raged over the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. See Annette Gordon-Read, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville, 1997), 114, 116.

(34.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 187, 189,298.

(35.) Ibid., 298.

936.) Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (edited by William Peden, Chapel Hill, 1982), 138-139. Jefferson was clearly drawn to the ardent love making of African-American women given his lengthy relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. See Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1997), 216219,303-309; Winthrop D. Jordon, Hemings and Jefferson: Redux" in Jan Lewis & Peter S. Onuf (eds.), Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture (Charlottesville, 1999); Gordon-Read, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, especially chapter 4; Fawn M. Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (New York, 1974).

(37.) Thomas Jefferson, Writings: Autobiography, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, Notes on the State of Virginia, Public Papers, Addresses, Messages and Replies, Miscellany, Letters (New York, 1984), 1115, 1118.

(38.) Jefferson quoted in Robert G. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (Philadelphia, 1999), 49.

(39.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 172.

(40.) Ibid., 172.

(41.) Rae-Ellis, Black Robinson, 50. On the concept of unworthiness and pollution see Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (New York, 1966). On racialized space see David Theo Goldberg, Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning (Oxford, 1995), chapter 8.

(42.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 61-64, 78, 80.

(43.) Ibid., 116-118. Windschuttle derives the words "savage spirit" from his uncritical examination of testimony before the Broughton Committee, appointed by Governor Arthur in February 1830.

(44.) Ibid., 66-70, 124. Windschuttle's argument turns on its head the meaning of violent actions perpetuated by subaltern groups. Slaves in the American South used a variety of violent techniques to resist their oppression, such as theft, arson and poison. See for example, Eugene D. Genovese, Roll Jordan, Roll: The Worlds the Slaves Made, (New York, [19721 1976), book 4, especially 599-621.

(45.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 95.

(46.) Morgan, Land Settlement in Tasmania, 155. Windschuttle criticizes Morgan for arguing that Aborigines killed livestock for reasons other than to attain food. This is indicative of his simplistic analytical approach to Aboriginal history. Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 95.

(47.) On this point see Cynthia Brantley, Feeding Families: British Ideas of Nutrition and Development in Early Colonial Africa (Portsmouth, 2002).

(48.) Paul Carter, The Road to Botany Bay,: An Essay in Spatial History (London, 1987), 147 [emphasis added]. See also Patricia Seed s Ceremonies of Possession in Europe s Conquest of the New World 1492-1640 (Cambridge,1995), chapter 1.

(49.) See Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 38, 4445, which suggests that the items Aborigines took from English settlers reflected the degree to which they had endeavored to adapt to settler society. See also Henry Reynolds, With The White People: The Crucial Role of Aborigines in the Exploration and Development of Australia (Ringwood, 1990).

(50.) On the escalation of Aboriginal attacks on settlers see Reynolds, Fate of a Free People, 28-29.

(51.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 341.

(52.) Ibid., 348.

(53.) Quoted in Ibid., 189.

(54.) Alan Lester, "British Settler Discourse and the Circuits of Empire," History Workshop Journal, 54 (2002), 39.

(55.) Carter, The Road to Botany Bay, 343.

(56.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 172,210, 299-300.

(57.) Ibid., 210.

(58.) Ibid., 230-231.

(59.) Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, 162.

(60.) On this point see Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven, 1992).

(61.) Jordan, White Over Black, 363.

(62.) John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier, Volume Two (Chicago, 1997), 324,354-355.

(63.) Michael R. Marrus, The Politics of Assimilation: A Study of the French Jewish Community at the Time of the Dreyfus Affair (Oxford, 1971), 92.

(64.) In twentieth century historiography of American slavery, the argument that slavery was a positive good was most forcefully expressed by Ulrich B. Phillips, American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime (Baton Rouge, [1918] 1994), 342-343, passim. Phillips s argument was thoroughly critiqued by Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (New York, [1956] 1984). See also Leon F. Litwack's Been in the Storm so Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (New York, 1980), 111-115, passim; Alan Lester, "British Settler Discourse and the Circuits of Empire," 40.

(65.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 189.

(66.) John Cheaterman & Brian Galligan, Citizens Without Rights : Aborigines and Australian Citizenship (Cambridge, 1997), especially chapters one & two.

(67.) Ibid., 16.

(68.) Godkin quoted in George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914 (Hanover, NH, 1987), 178. See also Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, [1995] 2001), x.

(69.) See John Smolenski, "Legal Boundaries and Morality Tales: Space on the Colonial Pennsylvania Frontier" in William Pencak & Daniel K. Richter (eds.), From Native America to Penn's Woods: Colonists, Indians, and the Racial Construction of Pennsylvania (Penn State Press, forthcoming). I thank Professor Smolenski for sharing this essay with me.

(70.) My reading of the debate over Aboriginal politics and history has been informed by James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York, 1991), 50.

(71.) James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars; Keith Windschuttle,"The Problem of Democratic History," The New Criterion, 16, 10 (June 1998), 22, 26. See similarly Lynne V. Cheney, "The End of History," The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 1994. On the culture wars generally see Hunter, Culture Wars; Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, Ross E. Dunn, History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past (New York, 1997).

(72.) Windschuttle, The Fabrication, 434.

(73.) Ibid., 418.

(74.) Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, chapter 3; Lyndall Ryan, "The Struggle for Recognition: Part-Aborigines in Bass Strait in the Nineteenth Century," Aboriginal History, 1,1 (1977), 27-51.

(75.) David Hollinsworth, Race and Racism in Australia (2nd Edition, Katoomba, NSW, 1998), 211.

(76.) Christopher Tomlins, "Introduction: The Many Legalities of Colonization" in Tomlins & Bruce Mann (ed.), The Many Legalities of Early America (Chapel Hill, 2001), 20. This process can also be seen at work in other colonial contexts. See for example James Lockhart, The Nahaus After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries (Stanford, 1992); For an Australian example see Gillian Cowlishaw, Rednecks, Eggheads and Blackfellas: A Study of Racial Power and Intimacy in Australia (St. Leonards, NSW, 1999).

(77.) Denis Byrne, "Deep Nation: Australia's Acquisition of an Indigenous Past," Aboriginal History, 20 (1996), 87.

(78.) On the perils of therapeutic history see Clarence E. Walker, We Can't Go Home Again: An Argument About Afrocentrism (New York, 2001).

Gregory D.B. Smithers

University of California, Davis

Department of History

1 Shields Avenue

Davis, CA 95616
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Author:Smithers, Gregory D.B.
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Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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