Henry Reynolds (historian)

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Henry Reynolds (born 1 March 1938) is an eminent Australian historian whose primary work has focused on the frontier conflict between European settlers in Australia and indigenous Australians.

Education and career[edit]

Reynolds received a state school education in Hobart, Tasmania, from 1944 to 1954, followed by attendance at the University of Tasmania to gain his Masters in Arts degree, then taught in secondary schools in Australia and England. He returned to Australia in 1964, accepting a post as lecturer and to set up the programme in Australian History at Townsville University College, now known as James Cook University. He gained his doctorate in history from James Cook University, and was later Associate Professor of History and Politics at the University from 1982 until retiring from there in 1998. He then took up an Australian Research Council post at the University of Tasmania in Launceston, and subsequently a post at Riawunna, the Centre for Aboriginal Education of the University of Tasmania.

Henry Reynolds is married to Margaret Reynolds, an ALP Senator for Queensland in Federal Parliament (1983 until 1999).

Historical research[edit]

Main article: History wars

In more than ten books and numerous academic articles Reynolds has researched and explained what he sees as the high level of violence and conflict involved in the colonisation of Australia, and the Aboriginal resistance that resulted in numerous massacres of indigenous people. Reynolds, and other historians, estimate[1] that up to 3,000 Europeans and 20,000 indigenous Australians were killed directly in the frontier violence, and many more Aborigines died indirectly through the introduction of European diseases and starvation caused by being forced from their productive tribal lands.

Geoffrey Blainey and Keith Windschuttle categorise his approach as a "black armband view" of Australian history.

In 2002, historian and journalist, Keith Windschuttle, in his book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume One: Van Diemen's Land 1803–1847, disputed whether the colonial settlers of Australia committed widespread genocide against Indigenous Australians, especially focussing on the Black War in Tasmania, and denied the claims by historians such as Reynolds and Professor Lyndall Ryan that there was a campaign of guerrilla warfare against British settlement. He accused Reynolds of inventing evidence and making many claims without any documentary support at all. Subsequently it was noted that Windschuttle failed to meet the criteria that he used to assess 'orthodox historians' and thus his accusations of deliberately and extensively misrepresenting, misquoting, exaggerating and fabricating evidence were flawed.

Friendship with Eddie Mabo[edit]

Reynolds was on friendly terms with Eddie Mabo, and, in his book Why Weren't We Told?, describes the talks they had regarding Mabo's people's rights to their lands, on Murray Island, in the Torres Strait. Reynolds writes:

Eddie [...] would often talk about his village and about his own land, which he assured us would always be there when he returned because everyone knew it belonged to his family. His face shone when he talked of his village and his land.

So intense and so obvious was his attachment to his land that I began to worry about whether he had any idea at all about his legal circumstances. [...] I said something like: "You know how you've been telling us about your land and how everyone knows it's Mabo land? Don't you realise that nobody actually owns land on Murray Island? It's all crown land."

He was stunned. [...] How could the whitefellas question something so obvious as his ownership of his land?[2]

Reynolds looked into the issue of indigenous land ownership in international law, and encouraged Mabo to take the matter to court. "It was there over the sandwiches and tea that the first step was taken which led to the Mabo judgement in June 1992."[2] Mabo then talked to lawyers, and Reynolds "had little to do with the case itself from that time",[3] although he and Mabo remained friends until the latter's death in January 1992.

Awards and honours[edit]

Henry Reynolds has received the following awards and honours:

Major works[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Statistics of Frontier Conflict". Kooriweb.org. Retrieved 2014-02-18. 
  2. ^ a b Reynolds, Henry, Why Weren't We Told?, 1999, ISBN 0-14-027842-7, p. 188
  3. ^ Reynolds, Henry, Why Weren't We Told?, 1999, p. 191
  4. ^ "1999 Human Rights Medal and Awards". Humanrights.gov.au Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Retrieved 11 August 2007. 

External links[edit]