The History Wars Continue: Keith Winshuttle Versus Simon Schama: A Hypothetical Trial

The History Wars Continue:

A Hypothetical Trial

by

Craig Bellamy

October 2003

History must strive to be an art before it can pretend to be a science

J. H. Plumb (1969)

Synopsis

What follows is a hypothetical case in which Simon Schama is on trial in relation to a charge brought forward by Mr. Keith Windschuttle. The serious criminal charge, as outlined in Mr. Windschuttle's provocative polemic The Killing of History is that Schama has attempted to murder History (Windschuttle 1994). Mr. Windschuttle believes that Schama has wilfully and maliciously used narrative, relativism and a dangerously reckless epistemology in an attempt to brutally murder the discipline. Mr. Windschuttle believes that the motive for this horrendous crime is little more than careerism. The prosecution for the case is the highly esteemed Eric Hobsbawn Q.C. The Defense Counsel for Schama is the somewhat unknown, Mr. Craig Bellamy. He was chosen as Defense council in this case, not because of his relatively untested knowledge of criminal procedure, but because, along with Schama, his curiosity has often caused him to push the boundaries of what is considered normal disciplinary rules. As the debate centres on the use of fiction in History it seems appropriate to experiment with the genre here. Judge Macintyre will trial the case.

Continue reading “The History Wars Continue: Keith Winshuttle Versus Simon Schama: A Hypothetical Trial”

The Death of Mr Practical: The Practical man and Globalisation

The Death of Mr Practical:

The Practical Man and Globalisation

by Craig Bellamy

Synopsis

There is a prevailing historical connection between Australia's colonial experience and our dominant intellectual tradition. Throughout the nation's short history of settlement, most of our leading intellectuals and rulers have displayed a certain ‘practicality' that is an Australian adaptation of a British creation. This practicality disguises its hegemony through the doctrines of ‘commonsense' and 'factual truth'. Practical thinking has its roots in a form of Utilitarianism that is perpetuated by and primarily beneficial to a powerful Anglo elite.

Essential to Utilitarian thought are the two philosophical beliefs in Positivism and Empiricism. Positivism is the belief that facts exist outside of value and Empiricism is the belief that through experiencing these facts we learn the truth. The two proponents of this thought are the British philosophers David Hume (1711-1776) and John Locke (1632-1704). Australia was founded as a Utilitarian experiment and historically, this has been the guiding principle for most of our political, cultural, and intellectual leaders. This Utilitarian, practical mode of thinking is still the dominant discourse in Australian intellectual and political decision making. However, under the tripartite pressures of post-colonisation, post-industrialisation, and globalisation this convention will have difficulty in sustaining its cultural pre-eminence.

Continue reading “The Death of Mr Practical: The Practical man and Globalisation”

John Curtin’s Letter of Inspiration

John Curtin and US General Douglas MacArthur meet at Parliament House on 26 March 1942.
NAA: A1200, L36449

This is a letter sent to John Curtin by Chris Bennett in 1915 (President Trades Hall Council) quoted in David Day’s biography of John Curtin that I find inspirational…(p.213).

…keep your pecker up and continue to fight and you will find that later on that you will be glad that you went away. You remember this and you will find it true. The field is large and your work is of the best. There are fine days ahead for you and those persons who do not value good work will be ashamed to think that they let you go.

History is for the Living

David Day

I am on my second Labor Biography at the moment being David Day’s biography of John Curtin. It is hard for my generation to imagine any Australian leader coming out of the Socialist left and also coming from Victoria. I wonder what John Curtin would have thought about globalisation and the Internet? The book is an exhaustive study by a true historian of the old left but lacks the buoyancy of Don Watson’s biography of Keating.

I wonder if there is any innovation by historians in Australia or if the methodological rigidity of Keith Windshuttle has reduced the profession to little more than an artless bureaucratic door stop.

Humanities Computing

Humanities

…to understand the legitimacy of a culture we need to investigate its relation to the archive, the site for the accumulation of records. Archive reason is a kind of reason which is concerned with detail, it constantly directs us away from the big generalisations, down to the particularity and singularity of the event. Increasingly the focus has shifted from archiving the lives of the good and the great down to the detail of mundane everyday life. (Mike Featherstone, 2000)

With a particular emphasis on hypertext theory, coupled with a survey of the field of Humanities Computing, I will explicate how Milkbar.com.au positions itself within the eclectic applications of online electronic scholarship in the Humanities.[1] Hypertext theory has (since the early 1960s) made significant inroads into the Humanities because hypertext is the seminal concept energising the global Internet.[2] And Humanities Computing is the most influential field of practice-based computing in the Humanities. Milkbar.com.au borrows practices from both Humanities Computing and hypertext discourse.

Continue reading “Humanities Computing”

Fitzroy as a post-industrial frontier

Post-Industrial Frontiers

The suburb of Fitzroy may not be one of the most significant nodes in the globalised world but in a similar way to other inner city districts of Melbourne and elsewhere it does have significant symbolic engagements with the world. Because it is Melbourne's oldest suburb (and thus richly historically layered) and because of its recent history as a working class industrial suburb (this in particular) means that Fitzroy has small histories that do resonate in some of the mainstay globalisation debates.

Fitzroy is one miniature stage within a networked global theatre. And the play is perchance a reflection upon the theatre itself.

Globalisation discourse dances around the totems of immigration, corporatisation, gentrification (through the new middle-class), the environment, global civil society and the broader concerns of the post-industrialisation of the major Western economies. Corporations are understood as the great pariah in the globalisation debate and post-industrialisation produces a throng of knowledge workers who cram the cafes of the gentrified inner cities. [1]

Continue reading “Fitzroy as a post-industrial frontier”

Gentrification in Fitzroy

Fitzroy is the archetype of a post-industrial Australian suburb. As Manual Castells, the Economic Geographer Kevin O'Connor, and a plethora of other authors argue, post-industrialism is the underlying catalyst for the present globalisation process.[1]

Inner city Australian communities are experiencing rapid gentrification, closing factories, rising rents and property values, and the appropriation of the working class culture that originally defined the suburbs. This is forcing out many of the long-term residents in favour of an eclectic mix of wealth distribution, lifestyles, and cultures.

Many claim that Australia is now being defined less and less by our historically definitive rural regions (as well as the great material and social egalitarianism of our post-war middle suburbs) and increasingly (for better or worse) by the culture of our inner cities, the fringes of our cities, and our bay-side towns. [2]

These changes can in part be linked to some of the major structural changes that are understood as globalisation. For instance, Fitzroy is a suburb where the factories that used to make clothes and confectionary now house the apartments of the new middle classes.[3] This is part of a larger global trend in developed countries where the majority of the workforce has shifted from the manufacturing industries into the service industries.[4]

Continue reading “Gentrification in Fitzroy”