Windschuttle versus Ryan

Since I recently published my conclusion that historian Lyndall Ryan apparently didn’t have an answer to Keith Winschuttle’s accusation of fabrication of Aboriginal massacres statistics in Tasmania, I should also link to Ken Miles’ recounting of a recent meeting he attended where Ms Ryan presented her case. While I don’t think it’s a complete answer to Windschuttle, it certainly does strongly suggest that we’re dealing with footnoting errors rather than fabrication, and that there is at least some tangential support for Ryan’s disputed claim.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in History. Bookmark the permalink.
24 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Ken,

I agree strongly with Chris’ comment over at surfdom: too much has been inferred from Ryan’s silence so far. I’ve been a little guilty of making the same inference myself. Now I’m starting to think that maybe she was shocked and stunned by the whole thing.

There’s still the “Sunday” transcript for those who want evidence of Ryan’s scholastic perfidy but, based on comments from friends who have been through the current affairs mill, I’d want to see the out-takes before I formed a conclusion based on her recorded remarks there.

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

I likewise inferred far too much from her silence. Before I went to her talk, I was under the assumption that her work was pretty dodgy, however, hearing her view has changed my opinion. Unless she completely lied about the contents of the Tasmanian archives (which would be a very risky thing to do, given that there were Tasmanian historians sitting in the audience), it seems that Windschuttle has turned a charge of formatting errors into a charge of fabrication.

Carita
2022 years ago

From what I’ve heard, the footnoting problems seem to have arisen in the contraction of Ryan’s PhD thesis to a book, and the consequent movement and/or deletion of around 200 footnotes.

If this is true, it’s clearly not honest, in the truest academic form, but it’s hardly lying in the sense that Keith Windschuttle purports. Furthermore, I have heard that the footnoting errors have been corrected in the most recent publication of her book.

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Carita, while some of the footnoting errors have arisen from the translation from thesis to book, others have simply been carried on through. However, these errors are pretty minor (they don’t contradict her interpretations at all), and in no way are evidence for a claim that she fabricated Australian history.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Eureka! Here’s a novel idea. Just try reading both the bloody books.
Golly gee. Why didn’t someone think of this before?

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Norman,

As soon as Windschuttle’s book turns up at my local library, I’ll probably put it through the standard G Trotsky ballistics tests for books, just to see how the binding holds up. Same with Lyndall Ryan’s.

In the meantime, the secondary debate over the continuing controversy remains entertaining.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

The problem with Norman’s approach is that it risks playing straight into Windschuttle’s hands … or, rather, his bank account.

Standing back, it might reasonably be surmised that the book represents a coalition of political and commercial interests.

One does not have to denigrate Keith’s work to acknowledge the conservative political interests in his book holding its ground.

On the other point, Keith reminds me of the late Albert Goldman, who became the most famous and despised biographer in the world because of his biographies of Elvis Presley and John Lennon (“Lennon assassinated twice” was the headline for one famous review). By simply writing counter theses to the predominant popular perceptions of such major cultural figures, Goldman made his fortune.

All of which means we can discerningly follow the secondary debate without paying a toll to Keith … while waiting for the library copies. Instead of always just sending us of to buy the book Norman, why don’t you raise some of the substantive points? Up to this stage, it looks to me as though its just a case of “Tasmania’s Aborigines massacred twice”.

Antony
Antony
2022 years ago

I think it would be a good idea for everyone to read Windschuttle’s book before taking a position in the debate.

Chapter 5 of his book, entitled Historical scholarship and the invention of massacre stories, 1815-1830, discusses the use of footnotes in some detail.

Here are his opening remarks on Lyndall Ryan:

“Since is was published in 1981, Lyndall Ryan’s The Aboriginal Tasmanians has been the principal work on its subject. It derives from her PhD thesis of 1975 and is still in print twenty years after it first appeared, making it one of the most successful books of Australian history”

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Antony, the problem with many of errors that Windschuttle found, is that they are minor, and don’t change the essence of what Ryan said. For example, does it really matter that a soldier’s 1835 account of killings was published in collection of colonial office reports, not independently, as Ryan mis-cites?

Antony
Antony
2022 years ago

Ken,

I must disagree with you. If Windschuttle’s own research is soundly based and he is reporting Ryan accurately, the errors he has found are NOT minor and DO change the essence of what Ryan said.

I could go into this in more detail, but I’m been summoned to dinner. Have you read his book?

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

“_If_ Windschuttle’s own research is soundly based and he is reporting Ryan accurately, the errors he has found are NOT minor and DO change the essence of what Ryan said.”

It’s that “if” that’s the kicker isn’t it? Unfortunately there’s good evidence (IMO) from other publications of Keith’s that he’s apt to mishandle his BCF Probe* from time to time, as it were.

Obscure Fleischmann & Pons cold fusion joke.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Afterthought: blogging makes strange bedfellows. I find myself agreeing with Norman’s oft repeated advice (which I’ll be taking myself as soon as a copy of Keith’s book turns up in my local library or remainder store) and read Ryan’s book as well.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

I think it would be a good idea for everyone to read Windschuttle’s book before taking a position in the debate … Windschuttle’s book abounds with quotations and references. There are normally several footnotes on every page.

On the surface, reading the book will not advance the non-expert in these aspects of the debate, since who can possibly check out the rival technical claims?

This leaves us, firstly, with the broader secondary debate, where many substantial and unanswered allegations have been raised about Keith’s book, and, secondly, with sufficent patience on the technical points to await the publications being gathered by the referees. Still, I would like to hear more.

mark
2022 years ago

“… So the critique made here is not of a work of youthful enthusiasm in which some carelessness might be excused. Its author has had twenty years to reconsider her original claims and correct her errors.”

I guess Mr Windschuttle has never heard of second-system effect!

(I actually used that term during my law exam today. I’ve probably seriously fucked up in attempting to inject humour into it all, but I don’t exactly care: there’s a point, usually at which you realise you’ve just handwritten > 2000 words in < 2hrs, where you do silly things like that… prolly a habit I’ll have to break)

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

“cs”, I haven’t noticed a lack of what you call “technical” expertise, stopping bloggers passing judgment on Windschuttle? In any case, anyone with ordinary reading skills would soon see that if Keith’s clear and easily checked summary of Lyndall’s fabrications was NOT correct, it would be a simple matter for her to show that.
Instead [during her prolonged ‘holiday] her ‘defenders’ have studiously avoided taking that simple path. Instead, they concentrated on trivial pursuit. Trivial, not in the sense that ALL of their comments are trivial. Trivial in the sense that NONE of their defence has dealt with the most serious examples of bogus references.
No wonder that on Ryan’s own Campus, they don’t seem to want to touch the issue with a barge pole. And her ‘defenders’ continue to attempt to discourage anyone from actually reading the book, and discovering what all the fuss is REALLY about.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

You won’t be surprised that I disagree Norman. One has to have a sense of order of magnitude here.

The two serious claims, as I see it, are, firstly, did historians deliberately make-up stuff because they were in the clutches of an ulterior ideology, and, secondly, will the errors force changes in the accounts to which they relate (and, more importantly, consequent changes in the relevant historiography). The third and most trivial claim is that Lyndall stuffed up her footnotes.

I think people can generally join the secondary debate on the first claim, can discuss the technology of footnote errors, and can join the wider political debate, but the second claim is technical and beyond cursory debate (and quite possibly the idea of simple corrections). In any event, none of this says that Keith’s book and his motives cannot be debated. Let he who throws stones …

Finally, I’ve rethought Antony’s extract from Windschuttle’s book. It really establishes nothing. If I came back to one of my books after 20 years, I can imagine correcting typos and sharpening the language, but can’t imagine rechecking the footnotes … unless I had been challenged or alerted to errors … which is what professional ethics and natural justice suggests Keith should have done prior to publication.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Best, cs, that you transfer to Lyndall’s Campus, at which, as you know, she’s rarely been seen or heard of for some time now. You’ll encounter mere students there, who believe they’ve been able to come to grips with the “technical difficulties” associated with distinguishing between mere sloppiness, and deliberate fabrication of bogus sources.
I loved one comment to the effect, “She’s bloody lucky she didn’t have ZZZ marking her essays.” And I sat there, quietly sipping coffee, thinking perhaps there’s yet hope for the Australian academic world.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Can you give me one transparent example of Lyndall’s alleged deliberate fabrication of bogus sources Norman?

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Because I apparently give people far more credit than Lyndall’s supporters do, I believe most people have more than enough ability to see for themselvers, cs. That’s why I keep saying over and over and over, DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT, simply READ THE BLOODY BOOK.
This is something NONE of Lyndall’s supporters seem keen about. Why?
It doesn’t matter what you or I or anyone else says here. The proof of this particular pudding depends upon others going to the material and seeing whether they think it holds up.
An interesting aspect of this whole charade has been the changed attitudes of some who have told me in the past that I tend to underestimate the ability of students. Suddenly, everywhere, I hear those same people saying, “Oh, it’s much too difficult for students to understand — don’t encourage them to read the book.”
I’m ready to risk that. If they end up agreeing with Lyndall that there was “a conscious policy of genocide’ against the Tasmanian aborigines, I’ll be surprised; but so be it. If they end up believing there was a large scale massacre at Risdon Cove, or the Black Line was a ruthless affair, I’ll be equally surprised. But so be it.
I’m inclined to think, however, they’ll react much as I did, and ask, “Why are some academics covering up Ryan’s fabrications?
BUT DON’T ANYONE TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. JUST READ THE BLOODY BOOK.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Again Norman, this just makes you sound like a sales rep for Keith’s book. If you can’t even pull out just one miserly transparent example that supports your position, on what basis would I bother reading the book?

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Sorry, cs. I was about to suggest that if it was only your economic position precluding its purchase, you could have tried the library. Then I saw the folly of my suggestion. Actually READING it? Good God! What was I thinking? Who needs to READ? Who needs to ANALYSE the evidence? That’s all a thing of the past. Presumably all one needs to do now at a ‘university’ level is to believe?
No wonder so many brighter students avoid the humanities these days. But I finally understand the whole point of Lyndalls defenders’ tactics. It follows the teachings of St Anselm, who once boasted [and it applies so well to Ryan et al]
“I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this I believe — that unless I believe, I should not understand.”
Wouldn’t St Anselm be pleased, to know that modern ‘universities’ are returning to what he taught a thousand years ago? His mother would have been proud of him.
On the bright side, no one [so far] is advocating that we burn books, so what is there to really complain about?

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Norman

This book is not on a subject in my area of the discipline, so it has to get on the end of the queue … and I can tell you it’s a very long queue indeed … and if no-one can even come up with a single transparent example of the attempted so-called ‘fabrication’, I’m not of a mind to even put it on the queue in the first place.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

One month on since that “cs” post, and what’s happened?
1] Examples of fabrication were provided.
2] “cs” ignored the examples.
3] “cs” continued his interest in anything EXCEPT the fabrications on new posts.
4] “cs” continued to find a great deal of time to provide excuses for NOT reading the book.

Apparently this is the new style of ‘academic’ research. Unless, of course, you’re only an undergraduate, in which case the fabrication of material IS still unacceptable?

fool
fool
2022 years ago

i hate keith windschuttle. he has a big nose which lets in his fair share of air, and all he does is nitpick others work. he was hit by a truck carrying ugly sticks at the age of four.
lyndall ryan was cool dont bag her.