“The people will kill, destroy, and if possible, exterminate every black in the island”: a case study of massacre inTasmania’s Black War, 1826-1828
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 03:06 by Ryan Spinks
Violence has long been an explanatory framework for the Tasmanian Black War. Over the last decade the focus has been violence over the long duree or violence in relation to the question of genocide. However, more recently Lyndall Ryan has begun to map the relationship between massacres and the population decline of Tasmanian Aborigines. Using French historical sociologist, Jacques Semelin’s typology of massacre, Ryan’s seminal case study of the Meander River region in 2008 found that the second phase of the war experienced the highest number of massacres and Aboriginal deaths. She drew the important conclusion that Governor Arthur established an infrastructure whereby settler massacres could be carried out and called for more work to be done on this phase of the war. While Ryan emphasises official discourses as an important component of this infrastructure there is room for further investigation. Utilising Semelin’s theorisation of massacre for the period 1826-1828, this thesis traces the development of official and unofficial discourses of violence to demonstrate why there was a turn to massacre within the settler population of Van Diemen’s Land. Encompassing both the legal and social dynamics of the settler colony, the study seeks to map out the pathways that enabled military personnel, police magistrates and stock-keepers to take part in the indiscriminate killing of Aborigines. Finally, I will apply Semelin’s five-point typology to examine two instances of settler massacres on the Oyster Bay tribe. Situated within a distinct geographical and social context, I will investigate the motivations and methods of these violent episodes to further our understanding of massacre in its Vandemonian context.