[Marxism] Keith Windschuttle and accounts of massacres of Aborigines in Australian history

Ozleft ozleft at optushome.com.au
Sat Jul 24 06:47:08 MDT 2004

By Bob Gould

In the year 2000 Keith Windschuttle published, in Quadrant, a long 
article accusing a number of historians, including Henry Reynolds and 
Lyndall Ryan, of exaggerating the scale of massacres of Aboriginal 
people on the colonial frontier in Australian history.

I took the initiative of organising a debate in my bookshop on these 
question, with myself and Henry Reynolds on the one side and Keith 
Windschuttle and P.P. McGuinness on the other. The debate was chaired by 
Hall Greenland and was extremely well attended. The shop was packed and 
there was considerable audience participation in the discussion.

This was the first of a series of confrontations between Windschuttle 
and other conservatives, and a number of historians.

My contribution to the debate consisted of an earlier, less fleshed-out, 
version of the piece published here, which I worked on and developed 
subsequent to the debate.

I raise several linked questions in this piece. My initial point is that 
Keith Windschuttle's approach is narrowly forensic, and he treats 
serious historical matters, which should proceed on the the balance of 
probabilities, with the maximum of evidence presented including both 
documents and written and oral history, and eyewitness accounts.

Windschuttle proceeds like an attorney for imperial British White 
Australia, asserting that no historical narrative is true unless it can 
be proved as if it were in a court of law, and the onus of proof is on 
the people making assertions about Aboriginal massacres, and they are 
not permitted to use hearsay evidence, oral history, or anything like 
that. It's pretty obvious that such an approach is heavily biased in 
favour of the conquerors, who are after all the people who kept the 
official records.

The second major point, for me, arose from my profession as a 
bookseller, and my fairly wide book collecting in the area of Aboriginal 

I was already aware of a number of ostensible accounts of massacres of 
Aborigines in popular Australiana, written in past times when such 
massacres were presented as manly, civilised, nation-building 
activities. I was particularly struck by the book, Taming the North, by 
Sir Hudson Fysh, the founder of Qantas, which contains lengthy accounts 
by perpetrators of massacres of Aborigines, in which they proudly 

After the debate, I decided one of the useful things I could do was 
assemble as much documentation as I could find from past popular 
literature and some academic literature, and assemble a bibliography of 
accounts of massacres pertaining to the bloodthirsty dispossession of 
Aboriginal Australia by British imperialism.

The document grew and grew, and I eventually had to call a halt without 
having listed everything.

Readers, if they so wish, can discount my passionate advocacy on this 
issue, but the arguments I present and the bibliographical references 
speak for themselves.

Windschuttle and those who support his view have avoided any serious 
engagement with the magnitude of the popular literature of the past, 
dismissing those parts of it that they choose to notice as the ramblings 
of old men.

The expanded version of my document, published here, has been published 
previously in Labor Review, No 35, the well-produced magazine of the 
Victorian Labor College, edited by Chris Gaffney.

Full: http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/Windschuttleblack.html

More information about the Marxism mailing list