How has Russel Ward interpreted the history of the nation( Australia)? How has he either helped to form or redefine a sense of national identity? Essay Example
How has Russel Ward interpreted the history of the nation (Australia)? How has he either helped to form or redefine a sense of national identity?
Russell Ward a controversial and yet an influential classical referential of classical Australian history asserts that the Australian idea about themselves and their history is mainly rooted on propaganda. According to him, the Bushmen and the Convicts were the founders of Australia. He believes that the Australian culture is largely shaped by the Bushmen and convicts and not the propagated ides of minority migrants many of whom were clergymen who settled in eastern Australia and the van Diemen’s areas between the 1839-1843. The migrants found thriving communities that had already been created by convicts and Bushmen who had settled in the area for over 50 years. These citizens to him showed great appreciation of their society and the massive opportunities it offered their young generation (Ward 58).
Most of the expectations on the early Australian founders were greatly influenced by the publicity of the select committee on transportation of the House of Commons under the leadership of Sir William Molesworth. The committee viewed transportation was a form of slavery that had to be stopped. The women convicts were by the media, depicted as whores. The committee claimed that homosexuality, which was referred to as an unnatural crime was rife in the colonies (McCabe 38). The clergymen claimed that all the persons living in the colony was highly contaminated by it. The clergymen believed that the convicts’ depravity had polluted early Australian society. This propaganda was believed by every migrant who came into Australia as it had gained a lot of publicity in Britain. This preceded the prohibiting of transportation (Roberts 15).
The events lead to the thrashing of the convict culture that had been built as they amassed pressure on the local community to support them. This led to the convicts’ reputation not only being obscene but also turned them from being great objects of rehabilitation but a source of shame. It was at this point untenable for one to identify himself or herself as being a convict or even having any connections to the group. Much of this propaganda which shapes the lives of many Australian to Russell was written by Reverend John West who spearheaded the campaign against transportation in the colony. The convict society to Reverend John was ‘revolting severity and prisoners debased by habit.’ convict society was thought to have left behind a society that was full of ignorance and full of revenge(Davison 190).
However, much of the records by West have since been disapproved as studies by historians on the convicts in the 1970 have had contradicting facts. Russell asserts that in the studies it was realized that the convicts believed in the continuity of the Australian community. The convicts were a great instrument in the establishment of the physical and social infrastructures. The convicts’ children were industrious and highly skilled as they served in the towns and local councils of the colony. On the contrary, most of the convicts’ children were the professional men who ran businesses and firms including newspapers that have long roots in the Australian history. These great values according to Russells were natured by the interactions of the convicts and their children and the strong and admirable admixture of the lasses and currency lads (Davison 191).
To him the bush ethos was blunted temporarily by the migration of the middle class and the gold rushes. This was later to be resserted by the Anzcas and the unions for the shearers. He believes that Australia was better off without religion as its entry split the great unity and goals of the founders as their civilization and thoughts of the society were thrashed. Christianity to him melted away the early manhood as reflected in The Australian Legend. The intrusion of religion in to the society introduced alien culture which in turn demolished the values that had been built in the young minds of the convicts children (Roberts 12).
During the 60s and the 70s, Russell Ward came under some criticism based on whether his interpretation on the history of Australian nation has either assisted in forming or redefining a sense of national identity. It is quite evident that Wards distinction between values and facts is widely termed to be a device of bourgeois methodology which is camouflages limitation of certain knowledge. He has rendered incomprehensibility in Australian history reality since he has failed in locating racism within the colonial Australian society. It is from this statement that critiques argue that he has offered an abstraction which has greatly obscured operation in the national identity (Wegner, 2002).
Wards interpretation of Australian history is defined under a limited masculine context which resulted in leaving women out of the image of his construct based on Australian identity. By so doing Wards interpretation is seen as one which has redefined Australian national identity. Further, he defined national identity as people ideas of itself despite being romanticized and exaggerated it is usually connected to a certain degree of reality. This definition has led to scholars understanding the ignominious and unusual origins of the Australian identity (Wegner, 2002). Russell is claimed to be breaking from Australian tradition in that he proposes and demonstrates convictism as the key factors towards development of Australian identity and culture.
In his definition of bust ethos as the founding fathers, he clearly stated that some of ethos were entrenched and abolished in 19th century. This abolishment was seen to be a distinctive national feeling that predated turbulent experiences. This is very essential negation that ushered in an era of gold which is considered to be a very formative experience in 1850. Despite the era being not definitive, it was not only laying the platform of Australian political democracy and social but also it is seen to plant seeds of the country national identity. In addition to planting seed, the era of gold has eliminated convict remnants which as a result has fostered change in the quality of Australian population (Wegner, 2002). Ward is seen to define some of characteristics of an Australian ethos as direct outcome of convict system. These characteristics are central to the creation of what is known as Australian ethos but widely they are only important to a notable percentage of the rural working class population. Russell thesis indicates that national identity here is drawn upon the different outlooks and habits of socially inferior majority as opposed to powerful rule of minority (Brundage & Richard, 2007).
It is evident that foregrounding the convict authority on Australian identity and culture is considered to be part of Wards radicalism. In addition, it tries him along literary and intellectual tradition of critical Anglo-cultural traditional conservation and radical nationalism thus encouraging today’s sense of Australian distinctiveness. Wards is persistently seen to argue that true ideology that supports nationalism was inherently home grown meaning it is socially egalitarian, lowbrow, collectivist and one which is defined in contradistinction to what is known by the British (Brundage & Richard, 2007). Concurrently, articulation of convict heritage widely defines of Wards traits in Australian nationalism despite the constant tendency to construe that same heritage as valuable and that which is gratifying is a recent relevant development.
In conclusion, it is ultimate that nationality concern has widely been shaped by great discussion of convict heritage. Australian nationality is defined within convict morality and character. Russell is seen to depart from the old idea of seeing convicts as victims and it is from this perceptive that he uses to understand reaction of this people within Australian environment and their contribution to the country national identity. He redefines the identity by way of exploring moral improvement of convicts and importance of first colonial generation thus influencing national heritage. His argument played a vital role especially during the time of Australian attitude towards convict legacy becoming liberalized.
Wegner, Philip (2002). Imaginary communities: utopia, the nation, and the spatial histories of
modernity. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.
Brundage, Anthony & Richard A. Cosgrove (2007). The great tradition: constitutional history and national identity in Britain and the United States, 1870–1960. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Davison, G. (1978). ‘Sydney and the Bush: An Urban Context for the Australian Legend’, Australian Historical Studies, Vol. 18, pp. 191-209.
Roberts, A. (2006). »’The Valley of the Swells», »Special» or »Educated» convicts on the Wellington Valley Settlement 1827-1830′, History Australia, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp.11.1-11.21.
McCabe, K, (1999).’Discipline and Punish: Female Convicts on the Hunter’, Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1999, pp. 38-61.
Ward, R. (1958). The Australian Legend (1958) Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
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