What has become known as "the Australian History Wars" has sparked a large amount of political, social and academic controversy in recent history. The debate is over the calibre of British settlement/invasion of the Australian continent in 1788 and the British dealings with aboriginal people.
There are two main sides to this complicated debate:
The first is what is sometimes called 'the black arm-band view of history' supported by historians such as Henry Reynolds and Lyndall Ryan. The main idea of these historians is that "invasion and conquest prepared the way for settlement" and it places Australian colonial history in the context of racism. This view has been widely supported within Australian academia since the 1970's and has addressed key issues in our history, which resulted in replacing the term 'settlement' with that of 'invasion', and has had political implications in the decisions of Wik and Mabo.
The other side of this debate, typical of the right of Australian politics, denies the invasion/genocide theory completely.
This theory has recently been pushed by the historian Keith Windschuttle, whose main claim is that "British colonization of the continent was the least violent of all Europe's encounters with the new world" . Windschuttle marks all opposing historians as belonging to 'the orthodox school' and believes that they have deliberately corrupted Australian history 'under the cloak of academic respectability'
Henry Reynolds is one of, if not the most prominent member of the 'invasion' side of the debate. When he first started writing around the 1970's his aim was in breaking what he calls 'the Great Australian Silence'- that is, the absence of Aborigines from Australian historical records in a 'cult of forgetfulness' , a deliberate attempt to 'forget' or cover-up violent relations with the Aboriginals. Instead he estimates that over 2000 settlers...