Attempted criticism of the ASIO official history series reinforces the professional integrity of each volume

Subjective attacks surely reinforce the integrity and balance of ASIO's official history series. Particularly where the subjectivity is clearly demonstrated by factual errors and conceptual misunderstandings about the principles, conventions and practices underlying official histories that could be easily rectified by adequate and objective research.

 

Letter to The Australian Financial Review 
Wednesday, 23 December 2015
(not published)*

Brian Toohey (“ASIO’s official history has a $1.75m subplot”, AFR, December 23, p4) poses a polemical “apples and oranges” comparison between the writing of official history series and books on specific historical topics or people written by individuals.

Since World War I federal governments of all political persuasions have rightly funded official histories.

Chiefly because they are rarely viable commercially but remain important to Australia recording what actually happened, and why, concerning major events and institutions in our national history.

This national-interest expense is also justified because they involve many years of archival and other research by teams of highly-qualified historians working under particularly stringent academic, professional, independence and objectivity standards.

With the ASIO history the team’s winning competitive tender duly insisted on full research access and editorial freedom from that agency and indeed governments generally.

The two volumes published to date have won critical, academic and general acclaim for their balanced analysis and for their detailed refutation of certain politically-inspired conspiracy theory myths.

That Brian’s inaccurate and subjective reaction also fails to disclose his personal disputation with their efforts surely further reinforces the professional integrity of their work.

 

* On Monday 04 January 2016 The Australian Financial Review published a letter from the ANU's Professor David Horner, the editor of the three-volume official history and the author of Volume I, pointing out several factual errors in the Toohey article. In particular, Professor Horner noted that, contrary to claims in the Toohey article, his ANU-based team of historians were the winning competitive tender and that the selection of the publisher was also decided by competitive tender.

 

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