The demonization of Tasmanian aborigines in the early Vandemonian Press
Atkinson-MacEwen, L, The demonization of Tasmanian aborigines in the early Vandemonian Press, Journal of Australian Colonial History, 23 pp. 71-86. ISSN 1441-0370 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2021 University of New England
Historians are increasingly reliant on newspapers as a primary source, particularly now that digitisation has made accessing and searching newspaper archives simpler and faster. In doing so, they must acknowledge that newspapers were constructed to attract and persuade a readership, and that they were heavily informed by editorial agendas. This was very much the case in Van Diemen's Land during the administration of Lieutenant Governor George Arthur (May 1824 to October 1836), a highly significant period of Australian colonial history that has generated debates about the role of the colonial state and settlers in the deaths of the Tasmanian Aborigines. Current historiography on the frontier wars in Tasmania continues to rely on contemporary newspapers, with historians challenging one another's interpretations of the sources. For example, Keith Windschuttle in 2003 condemned historians for failing to read newspaper reports 'critically', suggesting that some have mistakenly represented the Vandemonian press as having expressed the settlers desire to 'extirpate' the Aboriginal population. In Windschuttle's opinion, 'most of the time the press urged caution and humanitarianism' when reporting violence between Aborigines and settlers. Today, the issue of using newspapers as primary sources continues to be fundamental to claims and counter-claims about the frontier wars.
Aborigines, newspapers, Van Diemen's Land, frontier wars