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Friday, July 09, 2004
 
HISTORIANS NULLIFIED

The author of Error nullius (see here, here, here, and here if you're new to this saga), Michael Connor, has written his appraisal of the moral crisis facing the Australian Historical Association.
Keith Windschuttle's criticisms of Henry Reynolds and Lyndall Ryan frighten Australian historians because so much has been borrowed from these two academics and built into the works of others. Shake any book of history and the Reynolds-Ryan footnotes fall like a blinding snow. There is far more at stake than just the books of these two historians.

By questioning two career historians, Windschuttle is threatening an entrenched generation. The academics most threatened by new histories are not lonely scholars sneezing away the archival dust, for these are people who have grants to employ research assistants to do the work. They are affluent careerists with useful and pleasant professional and social contacts with publishers, journalists, arts bodies, grant organisations and professional history bodies, and they exert dominating power over their students.

Old history attacks on dissident voices are taxpayer funded. The "get Windschuttle" conferences were paid for by us. The articles, books, letters to the editor are prepared in university time, on university salaries, using university computers. Those history academics involved in fighting the history wars may have a besieged mentality, but they are a well-heeled and well-connected nomenclature.

The subtext to all this is acutely apparent to any honours or postgraduate history student. If they have to work with an enthusiastic soldier in the history wars, their grades and a possible career demand conformity to the lecturer's line or the choice of a research topic so dull that the barriers won't be raised against them.
You can find a solid review of Henry Reynolds's response, in Stuart Macintyre's History Wars, to Windschuttle's specific charges of fabrication in the July edition of Quadrant. Buy it now.