Analytical summary. Essay Example

  • Category:
    History
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Masters
  • Page:
    2
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    1037

Analytical Summary: Reynolds (1998), “Missionaries and Protectors”

In his article “Missionaries and Protectors” Henry Reynolds explores the sentiments, experiences and works of well-known missionaries and humanitarians in Australia who in the past decades were in the forefront of defending the rights of Aboriginal Australians. He seeks to establish the underlying motivation that caused these missionaries and humanitarians to strongly defend the cause of the Aboriginals against the subjugation of colonial masters while others looked on indifferently1.

Firstly, Reynolds establishes that, what drove humanitarians such as George Augustus Robinson, J. C. Pritchard and R. M. Lyon to strongly defend the rights of the Aboriginal was the belief that all human beings regardless of colour or race were created in the image of God and that we all have a common origin as descendants of Adam and Eve 2.Although some missionaries such William Horton considered Aboriginals to be irrational animals, inferior species, destitute, wretched and degraded savages with low intellectual capacity, Reynolds disputes their assertions3. He notes that, the attitudes of most humanitarian towards the Aboriginals were not only founded on theological standpoints but also their personal contact and interactions with the Aboriginal communities4. Reynolds observes that humanitarians and missionaries such as H. Mayer, Francis Tuckfield and Williams Dawes who interacted with the Aboriginal community found that they were kind, patient, showed great care for their young ones and their culture was richer and complex than they had envisioned. Furthermore, they found that their local dialect incorporated simple and extensive vocabularies5.

In addition to this, Reynolds notes that humanitarians witnessed the brutality, sexual exploitation, massacres and oppression that white colonialist leveled against the Aboriginal community in order to disposes them of their lands. Humanitarian and missionaries in the likes of George Augustus Robinson and Lancelot Threlkeld empathised with them and voiced their concerns about the plights of the Aboriginals. Consequently, some of them experienced great opposition and were subjected to harsh mistreatments6. Lastly, Reynolds notes that in order for Australia as a nation to evade from divine wrath associated with the violence, exploitation, injustices and oppression that white colonialist committed against the Aboriginal community, full recognition of Aboriginal rights and restitution should be enforced7.

Analysis

A critical look at Reynold’s perspective in this chapter one is likely bound to understand why those who oppose his work refer to him as the “archetypal black armband historian.” Basically, a black armband view of history is a term commonly used to refer to a point of view that mainly gravitates towards exploring the negative aspects of British colonialisation in Australia rather than providing a balanced outlook by highlighting both the positives and the negatives of colonialisation. Black armband history primarily focuses on exposing the violence massacres, oppression and injustices committed against the Aborigines by white colonialists8.

Evidently, the stance adopted by Reynolds in this chapter is one that epitomises a black armband view of history. In this chapter, Reynolds tends to focus on the sentiment and experiences of missionaries and humanitarians in Australia who in the past decades were in the forefront of defending the rights of Aboriginal Australians. By highlighting the views and experiences of missionaries and humanitarians who defended the cause of the Aborigines, Reynolds only explores the negative aspects of British colonialisation in Australia. As a result, he fails to provide a balanced outlook. His outlook in this chapter mainly gravitate towards portraying Aborigines as victims of oppressive colonial masters who dispossessed them from their ancestral land, perpetrated acts of violence towards them and unjustifiably killed thousands of their people. Reynolds attempts to dispel the notion that Aboriginal Australians are unintelligent and irrational beings by not only exploring a theological standpoint that all human beings regardless of colour or race were created in the image of God but he also explores the personal interactions that these humanitarians had with the Aborigines. Reynold portrays the Aborigines as kind, patient and loving people. What is surprising about Reynold’s viewpoint is that he primarily highlights positive qualities of the Aborigines and fails to portray white settlers in a positive light. He even justifies the brutality of the Aborigines towards the white settlers by observing that they were responding to the anguish of losing their ancestral land. It is surprising that by justifying the brutality of the Aborigines towards the white settlers Reynolds seems to validate the use of violence. Based on the observations made by Reynold in this chapter, he seems to fit the description of an archetypal black armband historian9.

Although Reynold’s sentiments in this chapter seem to gravitate towards a black armband view of history, he highlights some valid arguments with profound truths that should be taken into account. Firstly, he asserts that all human beings are equal regardless of the colour or race thus the Aborigines should be treated with dignity10. This view cannot be considered as a black armband view of history mainly because it is upheld in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognises that all human beings regardless of race, colour or socio-economic status are equal before the law and should be treated with dignity. Moreover, Reynolds condemns the violence, torture, assaults and killings that the Aborigines were subjected to by white colonialists. This view is echoed in the International Human Rights Conventions which consider torture as a crime against humanity11.

References

Coakley John, Nationalism, Ethnicity and the State: The Making and Breaking of Nations, (London: SAGE, 2012), p. 94.

Reynolds Henry, ‘Missionaries and Protectors’, in H. Reynold (eds), This Whispering in Our Hearts, (Crow Nest, NSW : Allen & Unwin, 1998) pp. 22-46.

Rodley Nigel and Pollard, Matt. The Treatment of Prisoners under International Law, (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press 2009)

1
Reynolds Henry, ‘Missionaries and Protectors’, in H. Reynold (eds), This Whispering in Our Hearts, (Crow Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1998) pp. 22-46.

2
Ibid, pp 22-23

3
Ibid, p. 23

4
Ibid , pp.25-26

5
Ibid, pp.27

6 Reynolds 1998, pp.29-31

7 Ibid, p.45

8
Coakley John, Nationalism, Ethnicity and the State: The Making and Breaking of Nations, (London: SAGE, 2012), p. 94.

9
Reynolds, pp. 32-33

10
Ibid, pp. 41-43

11
Rodley Nigel & Pollard, Matt. The Treatment of Prisoners under International Law, (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press 2009)