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Response to Review of The World, the Flesh and the Devil: the Life and Opinions of Samuel Marsden in England and the Antipodes, 1765-1838

I am grateful for such a long, careful, and professional discussion. What follows does not derogate from that. It merely expresses my personal reservations, which may not be shared by the historical profession at large.

I think  the problem with the review  is that the author does not consider the merits of my approaching the various subjects I was writing about through Marsden's eyes: as a kind of intellectual history of a man who was opinionated but not very coherent or self-conscious in his thinking. Plainly regarding the experiment as wrongheaded – the reviewer thinks the true historian should proceed to give a picture critically rounded on all fronts – he criticises what is there for not being enough, and he often confuses Marsden's judgements of things with mine, the writer's. He might have asked why I took the tack I did, and what showing Marsden's complicated combination of worldliness and protestant evangelical religion says about modern history-writing, especially but not only in Australia. I very much respect the care with which he read the book and picked up Marsden's inconsistencies, blindnesses, and failure to see other points of view. It is all in the book and he sees them. I also think he is exactly correct to point out that I evade judgment as much as I am able.  But I can't much applaud his moralising about the book's shortcomings from what I suppose he takes to be the true and proper 'historical' perspective. I would have liked it much more if he had tried to say what my approach was and what it illuminated and left open to further questioning, and then (if he must) how it led me to miss many important points from other perspectives. I feel a bit as if you and the reviewer should read, if you haven't, Edward Coplestone's great work, Advice to a Young Reviewer (1807). See, to find out about it: It's readily available on the internet..