What happened yesterday is history, but that’s not necessarily how we view what is history and what isn’t.
Similarly what is and what isn’t history is usually decided on by academics, because history texts that are used in schools are not written by ‘the man in the street’ authors. They’re usually university types who specialise in a particular field, or specialise section of history.
Even then one doubts that what is written is not a consensus of a panel.
So, when we talk about re-writing history, that takes a very brave bunch of people who want to buck the norm.
Our history, that which was taught when I went to school,. about our own country, Australia, started in 1770. Some brave soul tried to say it began earlier than that, before Captain Cook and the British arrived, out up a flag pole, and declared it belonged to Britain, like in 1606 when the Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon landed on the Cape York peninsula, only it wasn’t called that then.
And he might have been as surprised as Captain Cook that there were people here to observe their arrival. Yes, people had been living in this country for tens of thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.
But that was not what we were taught. No, Captain Cook, 1770, the a fleet of ships in 1788, and off we run as a new country, and a dumping ground for Britain’s convicts. Our history starts there, and then meanders through time, dividing the country up into states, having famous explorers like Burke and Wills, and Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson, Hume and Hovell.
And we commemorate all these people and those who were in charge over the years, with names of states, cities, rivers, mountains, everything under the sun. You’ve only got to glance at the list of hundreds of these forefathers and explorers to see just how many places in this country were named after them.
No heed was taken of what they may have been called before because no one really understood the languages of the first people who lived here. And they never seem to rate as a matter of study for us children back then.
Now, as people have begun to realise our history goes way, way back, and that there should be a nod to those inhabitants, they are considering re-writing some of our history to incorporate these people. And change the names of places to their original. A famous instance of recent renaming is of Ayers Rock, now called Uluru.
Even then, Australian History didn’t rate very highly, and I have to say, as a child at school 50 odd years ago, I learned more about the British Empire/Commonwealth, and about the English kings and queens, than we did about our own Governor Generals, Prime Ministers and State Premiers.
Could I tell you the name of our first Prime Minister? No. I can say when Australia became Australia, yes. 1901. Can I tell you the first King of England? Yes, William the Conqueror in 1066. There were kings before that but they only ruled of parts of England.
But over the years since I have read the odd book of Australian History but for some reason it never quite seems as colourful or as interesting as that of England or Scotland, or even some of the European countries.
Now, since I’ve been reading about what’s happening in the United States I have begin to take an interest in American history, and it, too, seems to suffer the same problems we have with ours, a bunch of academics decided what it was, and what it would not include, and then there is this thing called the 1619 project.
Wow, that seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Can’t wait to see what happens next.