[T]here was a strong connection between the British colonisation of Australia and those who campaigned against slavery. Today, our contemporary historians avoid this topic. Hence, few Australians are aware of how powerful the abolitionist sentiment was in colonial Australia or how strongly English abolitionists influenced the political and moral foundations of this country. . . .
[S]tudents of Australian history taught by the current generation of university lecturers are swamped by allegations that colonial officials were guilty of genocide against the Aborigines. According to Ann Curthoys and John Docker of the Australian National University, joint editors of the 2001 edition of the academic journal Aboriginal History, Britain was the most “overtly genocidal” of the European colonial powers and its colonisation of Australia produced a genocide comparable to that of Nazi Germany. Most other authors in that journal agreed with them.
Since genocide is both a crime of government and a crime of intent, this accusation is disturbing. If true, it means that all those Australian colonial officials who supported the abolition movement, who were protégés of Wilberforce, and who publicly declared that all human beings were equal before the law, must have been liars and hypocrites. Moreover, their words must have been the opposite of their deeds not just once but consistently across several decades and throughout many different colonial administrations.
In other words, the accusation is implausible on these grounds alone and is evidence not of the intentions of our founders but of how something has gone seriously wrong with the historical interpretation that now prevails in this field.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Keith Windschuttle on the Australian connection to Great Britain's abolition of the slave trade, and what it says about modern accusations of genocide against the Aborigines: