Geoffrey Blainey

Geoffrey Blainey

Professor Geoffrey Blainey AC (born 11 March 1930), is an Australian historian. He is prominent in academic circles and as a conservative cite web |url= |title=Transcript, ABC Radio AM Program, 26 June , 2007 |accessdate=2007-06-26 |format= |work=] political commentator.

Blainey was born in Melbourne and raised in a series of Victorian country towns before attending Wesley College and the University of Melbourne. 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.


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, Tasmania 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 University. 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.cite web | last = Wickham | first = Dorothy | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 2005 | url =,Geoffrey.shtml| title = Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Blainey (1930-); Historian and author; Foundation Chancellor of the University of Ballarat | work = UB Honour Roll | publisher = University of Ballarat | accessdate = 2007-02-11 ]

Blainey has been a controversial figure too. In the 1980s, he criticised the level of Asian immigration to Australia and the policy of multiculturalism in speeches and a book "All for Australia", leading to accusations of racism. 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 radical right-wing politics. cite web |url= |title=Australian Parliamentary Library - Research Paper 5 1997-98 |accessdate=2008-03-06 |format= |work=]

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

Among many other posts, Blainey has served on the Council of Australian War Memorial 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".cite web | year = 2001 | url = | title = This Land is all Horizons: Australian Fears and Visions| work = Boyer Lectures | publisher = Australian Broadcasting Corporation | accessdate = 2007-02-11]

Views on Asian immigration

In March 1984, Blainey commented to a group of Rotarians in the Southern Victorian town of Warrnambool 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 ... 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. [Letter to the "Age" of 19 May 1984 signed by 24 historians in quoted in cite web | last = Morgan | first = Hugh | authorlink = Hugh Morgan (Australian businessman) | year = 2006
url = | title = Can Australia Survive the 21stCentury? | format = pdf | work = The Wilfred Brookes Memorial Lecture | publisher = Deakin University | accessdate =
] Many of Blainey's colleagues argued that his views were divisive and would inflame racism in Australia.

Blainey's criticism of Asian immigration was widely reported in overseas countries,Fact|date=February 2007 particularly in Asia and there was a fear, subsequently discounted, that Australia's trading relations with its Asian neignbours would be affected by his comments.Fact|date=February 2007 In 1988, Blainey resigned from the University of Melbourne because of the hostility from many of his colleagues following his speech in Warnambool. [ [ Blainey's comments in interview with Frank Devine of "Quadrant" published in October 2006] ]

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.Fact|date=February 2007. Subsequently in December 2007 The University granted a Doctor of Laws to Professor Blainey [Press Release from University of Melbourne cite web | last = Smith | first = Katherine | year = 2007
url = | title = University of Melbourne honours Geoffrey Blainey’s contribution to Australian history | format = html | publisher = University of Melbourne | accessdate = 2007-12-14
] 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. [cite news | first= Michael | last= Gordon | author= | url= | title= Going down in history | work= | publisher= The Age | date= 6 September 2003 | accessdate= 2007-02-11]

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.Fact|date=May 2008


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. [ [ It's an Honour] - Companion of the Order of Australia] The following year he was awarded the Centenary Medal. [ [ It's an Honour] - Centenary Medal]


*"The Peaks of Lyell", Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, Vic., 1954.
*"A Centenary History of the University of Melbourne", Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Vic.; London, Cambridge University Press, 1957.
*"", Angus and Robertson, Sydney, N.S.W., 1960.
*"", Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, Vic., 1963.
*"A History of Camberwell", Jacaranda Press in association with the Camberwell City Council, Brisbane, 1964.
*"", Sun Books, Melbourne, Vic., 1966.
** Winner of the C. Weickhardt award for Australian literature
*"The Rise of Broken Hill", Macmillan of Australia, Melbourne, Vic., 1968.
*"Across a Red World", Macmillan, Melbourne, Vic., 1968.
*"The Steel Master: A Life of Essington Lewis", Macmillan of Australia, South Melbourne, Vic., 1971.
*"The Causes of War", Macmillan, London, 1973.
*"Triumph of the Nomads: A History of Ancient Australia", Macmillan, South Melbourne, Vic., 1975.
*"A Land Half Won", Macmillan, South Melbourne, Vic., 1980.
*"Gold and Paper 1858-1982: A History of the National Bank of Australasia", Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1983.
*"Our Side of the Country: The Story of Victoria", Metheun Haynes, North Ryde, N.S.W., 1984.
*"All for Australia", Methuen Haynes, North Ryde, N.S.W., 1984.
*"The Great Seesaw: A New View of the Western World, 1750-2000", Macmillan, South Melbourne Vic., Basingstoke, 1988.
*"A Game of Our Own: The Origins of Australian Football", Information Australia, Melbourne, Vic., 1990.
*"Odd Fellows: A History of IOOF Australia", Allen & Unwin, Sydney, N.S.W., 1991.
*"Blainey, Eye on Australia: Speeches and Essays of Geoffrey Blainey", Schwartz Books, Melbourne, Vic., 1991.
*"Jumping Over the Wheel", Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, N.S.W., 1993.
*"The Golden Mile", Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, 1993.
*"A Shorter History of Australia", William Heinemann Australia, Port Melbourne, Vic., 1994.
*"White Gold: The Story of Alcoa of Australia", Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, N.S.W., 1997.
*"In Our Time", Information Australia, Melbourne, Vic., 1999.
*"A History of the AMP 1848-1998", Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, N.S.W., 1999.
*"A Short History of the World", Penguin Books Australia Ltd., Vic., 2000.
*"Black Kettle & Full Moon: Daily Life in a Vanished Australia", Penguin Books Australia Ltd., Vic., 2004.
*"A Short History of the Twentieth Century", Penguin Books Australia Ltd., Vic., 2006.
*"A History of Victoria", Cambridge University Press, New York, 2006.


*cite book | editor= Deborah Gare, Geoffrey Bolton, Stuart Macintyre and Tom Stannage (eds) | year = 2003 | title = The Fuss that Never Ended: The Life and Work of Geoffrey Blainey | publisher = Melbourne University Press | location = Melbourne, Victoria | id = ISBN 0-522-85034-0


External links

* [ Works by Geoffrey Blainey]
* [ Works about Geoffrey Blainey]
* [ ABC Interview with audio]
* [ Video of Geoffrey Blainey] and James Boyce at Melbourne Writers Festival on SlowTV

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