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Saturday, July 12, 2003
Historian, Keith Windschuttle, has been accused by his fellows with a subversive plan "to take the discipline of history back to some golden age when it was all about facts"...?!
I am currently reading Windschuttle's book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. Vol. One (Sydney: Macleay Press, 2002) and finding it a shocking expose of how "postmodernist" historians have both a low opinion of, and complete disregard for, facts. The book sadly confirms once again how the ruling liberal elite will sacrfice facts and truth to the "higher" cause of Political Correctness. Windschuttle has been the subject of a smear campaign organised by the Thought Police on behalf of their masters among the ruling orthodoxy of liberal academics and intellectuals. Andrew Bolt from the Herald Sun of June 9, 2003 has an excellent article on the affair:
War of historians
KEITH Windschuttle's problem is that it's now more moral to seem good than be right. Even when you write about our history.
Ask Windschuttle, who has been savaged by our leading historians for six months since he pointed out they had told falsehoods about the "genocide" of Tasmania's Aborigines.
His book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, challenges the claims of a generation of modish historians that Tasmanian Aborigines were deliberately wiped out by racist whites, or were at least victims of a slaughter.
What makes Windschuttle's rebuttal so explosive is that he's checked their claims against their sources, and found that historians as admired as Professor Henry Why Weren't We Told Reynolds had misquoted some of them, and in a way that exaggerated the tragedy, or made it seem deliberate. Reynolds, to his credit, admits to an honest error.
But no historian was so devastatingly analysed as Professor Lyndall Ryan, a university dean and author of The Aboriginal Tasmanians, the most influential book on what she calls Tasmania's "genocide".
Ryan claims, for instance, that police roving parties killed 60 Tasmanian Aborigines from 1828 to 1830.
In fact, the sources she cites mention no such figure and Windschuttle says the real death toll was just two.
Ryan claims settlers killed 10 Aborigines at Moulting Lagoon. In fact, none of the sources she cites mention any killings there.
Ryan says between 1827 and 1830, shootings by whites and other conflict cut the number of "North people" from 200 to 60.
In fact, says Windschuttle, there was no census or any other way of knowing how many Aborigines were in this area around this time.
Ryan claims Aborigines were offered poisoned flour.
But Windschuttle says Ryan's only source for this does not say anyone actually gave Aborigines the flour, but only that one boss worried his stockmen might.
RYAN lists the diary of the colonial chaplain, Robert Knopwood, as her source for saying 100 Aborigines were killed by whites from 1804 to 1808. In fact, his diary lists just four killed.
Ryan claims 280 Tasmanian Aborigines were "recorded shot" in various records. In fact, Windschuttle says, the records list only 119 Aborigines shot by whites, in murder or self-defence. And on and on.
I have asked Ryan three times to respond to Windschuttle's allegations that she got these things wrong, exaggerated facts or worse.
Months ago she promised me an answer, which never came, and then told me to wait until the University of Tasmania published a paper she recently gave in which she said she'd found sources to support some of her claims -- although not the ones I've listed here.
Others haven't had much luck, either, in getting her to explain her scholarship, which seems to me incredibly unprofessional. Ryan has admitted only that some of her footnotes are missing, but the errors are "minor" and "easily rectified". She denies lying and says, "I can't believe I would have made it up". She has asked: "Is only one 'truth' correct?"
But on Channel 9's Sunday program, reporter Helen Dalley asked her to explain why she'd said Knopwood was her source for claiming 100 Aborigines had been murdered, when he'd actually recorded only four such deaths.
Ryan: Right. I certainly agree that the Knopwood diaries say that, but I also had another reference referring to a report by John Oxley who was a surveyor who'd been sent down to Tasmania in 1809. He said too many Aborigines were being killed.
Dalley: OK, but how did you extrapolate from his words saying "too many Aborigines had been killed", to "about 100 lost their lives"? Is that just made up?
Ryan: Well, I think by the way in which Oxley wrote that he seemed to think there had been a great loss of life from the Aborigines.
Dalley: So, in a sense, is it fair enough for (Windschuttle) to say that you did make up figures? You're telling me you made an estimated guess.
Ryan: Historians are always making up figures.
LET me now tell you how our historians have responded to all this. The person they've attacked for bad scholarship, inventing things and making facts fit an ideological prejudice is ... Keith Windschuttle.
It's been a circus.
"There is no room in his court for historical imagination," raged Professor Stephen Foster, who edited Frontier Conflict, a book of essays by historians attacking Windschuttle. Truly!
"Windschuttle aims to take the discipline of history back to some golden age when it was all about facts," complained Professor Alan Atkinson. Well, yes, professors. That's his point.
"Malicious" and "cultural chauvinist", spat author Mark McKenna. "Replete with misconceptions, distortions, character assassinations," added lecturer Shayne Bree. Pot. Kettle.
Professor Robert Manne even accused Windschuttle -- falsely -- of plagiarism.
And professors Stephen Mueke and Marcia Langton claimed he had a "twisted view of history", and were "deeply concerned" that a newspaper would give him "space to attack the credibility of major historians".
Excuse me, dear historians, but what credibility?
Another good summary of the fabrication of aboriginal history can be found here.