Posted to mark the reading of History Wars!
Stuart Macintyre | Reviewing the History Wars | Labour History, 85 | The History Cooperative
He misreads those whom he castigates. Windschuttle repeatedly alleges that Reynolds and Ryan sought to depict the frontier as a place of indiscriminate white killing. Yet Reynolds was principally interested in the Aboriginal response to the newcomer, and consistently argued that it took a variety of forms, from co-operation and partnership to resistance and warfare. Ryan was concerned to relate the story of the dispossession and survival of Tasmanian Aboriginals, and frontier violence was only one part of her story. So far from them creating an ‘orthodox school’, other historians had long since challenged the emphasis on frontier violence and queried the idea of a frontier with Europeans on one side and Aboriginals on the other. 3
The greater part of Windschuttle’s book is given over to a minute examination of the massacres. He scrutinises the historians’ treatment of these events, tracks their references back to the archives and compares their versions against the original source. This is by far the most damaging of his criticisms, as he finds some of the sources do not support what the historians reported while others do not even exist. He pays careful attention to chronology and topography, consistency and plausibility — when and where did the incident occur? who was there and can we trust their version of what happened? — to reduce the number of casualties. He imposes stringent standards of evidence — from reputable eyewitnesses and preferably corroborated — to rule out higher numbers.