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Geoffrey Norman Blainey, AC (born 11 March 1930), is an Australian historian. He is prominent in academic circles and as a conservative political commentator.

Blainey was born in Melbournemarker and raised in a series of Victoriamarker country towns before attending Wesley Collegemarker and the University of Melbournemarker. While at university he was editor of Farrago, the newspaper of the University of Melbourne Student Union. He was appointed to a teaching post at the University of Melbourne in 1962, becoming Professor of Economic History in 1968, Professor of History in 1977, and then Dean of Melbourne's Faculty of Arts in 1982. From 1994 to 1998 Blainey was foundation Chancellor at the University of Ballarat.

Career

His first major project in the 1950s was, as an author and researcher working on the history of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company, at Queenstown, Tasmaniamarker when a significant number of the older residents could remember the beginnings of the community. The resultant book is one of the few company and local histories in Australia to achieve six editions. He has since published 32 books, including his highly acclaimed A Short History Of The World. His works have ranged from sports and local histories to interpreting the motives behind the British settlement of Australia in The Tyranny of Distance, covering over two centuries of human conflict in The Causes of War, and examining the optimism and pessimism in Western society since 1750 in The Great See-Saw.

Blainey was a Professor of Economic History and later the Ernest Scott Professor of History at the University of Melbourne. He held a Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard Universitymarker. He is listed as one of the Australian Living Treasures. Geoffrey Blainey was Chairman of the Australia Council for four years and Chairman of the Australia-China Council from its inception in 1979 until June 1984. In 2001, he was the Chairman of the National Council for the Centenary of Federation. From 1994 to 1998, he was the Foundation Chancellor of the University of Ballarat.

Blainey has, at times, been a controversial figure too. In the 1980s, he criticised the level of Asian immigration to Australia and the policy of multiculturalism in speeches, articles and a book All for Australia. He has been closely aligned with the former Liberal-National coalition government of John Howard in Australia, with Howard shadowing Blainey's conservative views on some issues, especially the view that Australian history has been hijacked by social liberals. As a result of these stances, Blainey is sometimes associated with right-wing politics.

In his 1993 Sir John Latham Memorial Lecture, Blainey coined the phrases "Black armband view of history" versus the contrasting "three cheers" view (see History wars). The phrase "Black armband view of history" began to be used, pejoratively or otherwise, by some conservative Australian social scientists, politicians, commentator and intellectuals about historians whom they viewed as having presented an overly critical portrayal of Australian historymarker.

Among many other posts, Blainey has served on the Council of Australian War Memorialmarker since 1997, the Council of National Council for the Centenary of Federation since 1997, and the Council of the Royal Humane Society of Australasia since 1997. He writes sporadic columns regarding history for The Australian a national newspaper.

In 2001, Blainey presented the Boyer Lectures on the theme This Land is all Horizons: Australian Fears and Visions.

Views on Asian immigration

In March 1984, Blainey commented to a group of Rotarians in the Southern Victorian town of Warrnamboolmarker that public opinion would not support the rate of Asian immigration to Australia. Criticizing what he viewed as the disproportionately high levels of Asian immigration to Australia, he said: "Rarely in the history of the modern world has a nation given such preference to a tiny ethnic minority of its population as the Australian Government has done in the past few years, making that minority the favoured majority in its immigration policy."

Blainey elaborated on his concerns some days later in an article for The Age, in which he introduced the term "Asianisation" into the Australian political lexicon, a phrase Blainey attributed to Immigration Minister Stewart West.

In the article, Blainey wrote:

I do not accept the view, widely held in the Federal Cabinet, that some kind of slow Asian takeover of Australia is inevitable.
I do not believe that we are powerless.
I do believe that we can with good will and good sense control our destiny ...
As a people, we seem to move from extreme to extreme.
In the past 30 years the government of Australia has moved from the extreme of wanting a white Australia to the extreme of saying that we will have an Asian Australia and that the quicker we move towards it the better.


Blainey's views, later expanded upon in a book entitled All for Australia, provoked much debate and controversy, and 24 historians from the University of Melbourne signed a public letter distancing themselves from his views. Many of Blainey's colleagues argued that his views were divisive and would inflame racism in Australia.

After a group of left-wing students at the University of Melbourne picketed Blainey’s lectures and demonstrated against him, Blainey was forced to cancel the rest of scheduled talks at the university for the rest of 1984 on security grounds. Blainey and his family were also subject to threats of violence, prompting Blainey to remove his name and address from the public telephone book and organise private security for his home.

In 1988, Blainey resigned from the University of Melbourne because of the hostility from many of his colleagues following his speech in Warnambool.

According to historian Keith Windschuttle:

The immediate consequence of all this was that Blainey, easily Australia’s best and most prolific living historian, was effectively silenced from speaking at his own university.
He reverted to an administrative role as Dean of Arts and did not lecture again in the history department until 1987.
This violation of academic freedom, clearly the worst in Australian history, provoked no protest at all from the university’s academic staff association, nor from the university council, let along his own departmental colleagues.


More than two decades later, in the more conservative climate of 2005, the University of Melbourne named a Chair in Australian history in his honour. . Subsequently in December 2007 The University granted a Doctor of Laws to Professor Blainey which noted he was in Australia a probably unique professional historian, in that he had made his living by popular sales of his works quite separately from his academic positions, and that this created a greater interest in history in the broader public. The citation noted that his popularity as an author meant 'few graduates of this University have exerted greater influence on national life.'

Blainey and the History Wars

Blainey has been an important but low-key contributor to the debate over Australian history since European settlement, often referred to as the History Wars. Blainey coined the term the "Black armband view of history" to refer to those historians, usually leftist, who accused Australians of genocide against Aborigines having previously referred to nationalistic histories as the "three cheers" school.

Although Blainey's book Triumph of the Nomads was considered to be a scholarly study into the history of Australia's original inhabitants, his opinions opposing High Court decisions in favour of Aboriginal land rights put him in the line of fire and led to accusations of racism.

Awards

Geoffrey Blainey was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours list of 2000 for his service to academia, research and scholarship. The following year he was awarded the Centenary Medal.

Bibliography



Biography



References

  1. Letter to the Age of 19 May 1984 signed by 24 historians in quoted in
  2. Stuart Macintyre and the Blainey Affair
  3. Blainey's comments in interview with Frank Devine of Quadrant published in October 2006
  4. Stuart Macintyre and the Blainey Affair
  5. Press Release from University of Melbourne
  6. It's an Honour - Companion of the Order of Australia
  7. It's an Honour - Centenary Medal


External links




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