Reynolds, Henry 1938–

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Reynolds, Henry 1938–


Born 1938, in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; married: wife's name Margaret (a politician); children: John, Anna, Rebecca. Education: University of Tasmania, B.A. (with honors), M.A.


Home—Queensland, Australia. Office—James Cook University, P.O. Box 6811, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia. E-mail—[email protected].


Taught in secondary schools after earning a master's degree; research fellow, University of Tasmania; James Cook University, Cairns, Australia, currently adjunct professor of history and politics.


Australian Book Council Award for nonfiction, 1997, for study of the black war in Tasmania; D.Litt., James Cook University.


(Editor, and introduction) Aborigines and Settlers: The Australian Experience, 1788-1939, Cassell Australia (North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1972.

The Other Side of the Frontier: An Interpretation of the Aboriginal Response to the Invasion and Settlement of Australia, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia), 1981, University of New South Wales Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2006.

Frontier: Aborigines, Settlers, and Land, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1987.

The Law of the Land, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 1987, reprinted, 2003.

(Compiler) Dispossession: Black Australians and White Invaders, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1989.

With the White People, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 1990.

(Editor, with Richard Nile) Indigenous Rights in the Pacific and North America: Race and Nation in the Late Twentieth Century, University of London (London, England), 1992.

Fate of a Free People, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 1995.

Aboriginal Sovereignty: Reflections on Race, State, and Nation, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1996.

The Whispering in Our Hearts, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1998.

Why Weren't We Told? A Personal Search for the Truth about Our History, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1999.

Black Pioneers, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2000.

An Indelible Stain? The Question of Genocide in Australia's History, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2001.

(With Bruce Dennett) The Aborigines, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

North of Capricorn: The Untold Story of Australia's North, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2003.

Nowhere People, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2005.

Also author of Aborigines and Settlers: The Australian Experience, 1788-1939.


Henry Reynolds is a historian and author who writes on the subject of Australian Aboriginal history. Reynolds's Dispossession: Black Australians and White Invaders is a compilation of documents written by Australian Aboriginals about their own part in the history of Australia. In Aboriginal Sovereignty: Reflections on Race, State, and Nation, Reynolds discusses whether Australia should be called one sovereign nation or whether, since the Aboriginal tribes were there first, it should be considered many nations within one nation. Nations are generally considered to be formed by like cultural and ethnic groups, not simply by political rulings, such as the Federation of the Australian colonies in 1901 that declared the region a single nation. The reality of the cultural makeup of Australia could lead to the existence of three separate nations under the single flag, consisting of the Aborigines, the Torres Strait Islanders, and the Europeans and other non-natives who arrived in Australia over the last several hundred years. Of these, the Aborigines are the ethnic group with the greatest history in Australia, and therefore, according to Reynolds, should be given sovereignty. He maintains that the country should be divided into three, but with each of the nations answerable to the overall Commonwealth. In a review for Quadrant, Keith Windschuttle wrote: "Reynolds claims that, ultimately, Australia has no choice in the matter. The die was cast, he says, when Britain decided to plant a colony in an already inhabited land…. There is ‘no acceptable alternative scenario’ but to support the ethnic and national aspirations of indigenous peoples and to allow them to achieve political, cultural and economic autonomy." While Windschuttle agreed with much of Reynolds's assertion, he commented: "It is also wrong of Reynolds to claim that there is no acceptable alternative scenario to his scheme."

The Whispering in Our Hearts is also about the history of the Aboriginals in Australia. It gives the history of Australia from the viewpoint of the colonists who supported the rights of the Aboriginals, rather than advocating the plunder of their lands and violent relocation of their homes, and focuses on the hardships of these people who straddled ethnic lines. Raymond Evans, writing for the Journal of Australian Studies, commented: "Reynolds's forthright account indicates the lonely and often dangerous road such people walked."

Why Weren't We Told? A Personal Search for the Truth about Our History similarly focuses on the history of Australia, describing the violent invasion by white people, racial persecutions, and the large numbers of people who died. Included are historical documents that back up the facts in the book. Morag Fraser stated in Australian Book Review: "The book will be controversial. It should also prove indispensable." Reynolds's title refers to the questions asked of him by numerous people, who, distressed by the apparent violent treatment of the indigenous peoples of Australia, want to know why such events were not made more public. In response, Reynolds writes about the situation and the fact that most people, if they were honest with themselves, did not actually want to know the truth behind the social development of the country from the late nineteenth century until the end of the 1960s. It was easier and preferable to believe that settlements were created peacefully, and that Aborigines moved on of their own free will, and not because they were forced out through violent measures and invasive actions. Robert Murray, reviewing for Quadrant, commented of Reynolds's effort: "There is a good story in all this, which Reynolds on his record should be the one to tell. Instead, he almost ignores it, seeming to leave his usual common sense behind when he descends from the tropics, in favour of following a pet theory. It is as erroneous to put an all-violent tag on the white arrival as it is to call it ‘peaceful occupation.’" He concluded, however, that "most of Reynolds's new book is quite good. Its description of race relations in Townsville and their evolution is as good as I have read on recent urban race relations."

In North of Capricorn: The Untold Story of Australia's North, Reynolds discusses the small Australian towns in the northernmost region of the country, above the Tropic of Capricorn, that thrived during the nineteenth century, both economically and socially, and consisted of multicultural, multiracial populations. Unlike many of his other works, which show how the races worked against each other, the book provides examples of ways in which they were able to exist in harmony. The indigenous peoples were hard workers and made the most of life in this highly tropical region, while newcomers to the area were appreciative of their efforts and added their own, understanding that successful communities required cooperation and sweat equity. Unlike the more southern regions of the country, where the white population dominated in great numbers, the northern region enjoyed diversity and a predominance of "colored" and "Asiatic" populations. Reynolds is swift to point out, however, that this diversity, which centered primarily on towns such as Broome, Cairns, Mackay, and Darwin, made future white colonists nervous, and that any visitors from the south made note of the situation. In 1901, the enactment of the White Australia policy led to drastic changes in the makeup of these populations as families were forced to relocate, and discriminatory regulations made such diversity a thing of the past. Peta Stephenson, in a review of the book for Australian Aboriginal Studies, praised Reynolds for his use of diverse source materials, including photographs and cartoons, in his effort to accurately capture life in nineteenth-century northern Australia, remarking that the result "challenges the dominant version of Australian historiography by narrating Australia from the north across instead of Sydney-side up." She went on to add, however, that "North of Capricorn would have made a more innovative and provocative challenge to mainstream historiography by providing a political as well as a cultural history," commenting on Reynolds's insistence on looking at the different races and indigenous groups as separate from each other as well as from the white settlers. Stephenson noted: "In narrating the story from a ‘whiteness’ perspective, Reynolds is unable to provide insights into the experiences of local Indigenous and ‘Asian’ people." Raymond Evans, writing for the Journal of Australian Studies, opined that "it is surely questionable to present racially complex but unequal and inherently conflictual societies as unproblematically progressive ones. Less emphasis upon the romantic sights, scents and sounds emanating from this ‘interesting, lively and colourful’ farrago, and more attention to the fundamental inequalities, struggles and iniquities embedded in these contradictory social orders, might help to balance such … impressions."



Houston, Susan, and Linda Kealey, coeditors, Canadian Historical Review, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.


Australian Aboriginal Studies, fall, 2004, Peta Stephenson, review of North of Capricorn: The Untold Story of Australia's North.

Australian Book Review, July, 1999, Morag Fraser, "Telling Us All," pp. 6-7.

Journal of Australian Studies, December, 1998, Raymond Evans, review of The Whispering in Our Hearts, p. 214; March, 2004, Raymond Evans, review of North of Capricorn, p. 167.

Quadrant, September, 1998, Robert Murray, review of The Whispering in Our Hearts, p. 84; September, 2000, Keith Windschuttle, "The Break-up of Australia," p. 8; December, 2000, Keith Windschuttle, "The Myths of Frontier Massacres in Australian History," p. 6.

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Reynolds, Henry 1938–

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