The genocide of Aborigines in Tasmania is a myth, perpetrated by left-wing apologists and based on distorted or fabricated historical evidence, according to a controversial new book. In The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, historian Keith Windschuttle argues that the number of Aborigines who were deliberately killed in the 19th century by British soldiers, settlers and emancipated convicts has been wildly exaggerated. His claims have sparked a furore, with anger from the 6,000 Tasmanians who claim Aboriginal ancestry today. Mr Windschuttle argues that although widely accepted as historical fact, there was no deliberate extermination of about 5,000 Aborigines who the British first encountered when they settled in what was then called Van Diemen's Land in the early 1800s. While accepting that 'full-blood' Tasmanian Aborigines were all but wiped out by the 1870s, he says that was largely due to accidentally introduced diseases and the fact that Aboriginal women prostituted themselves and gave birth to mixed-race children. 'The British officials who were posted to Tasmania were enlightened humanitarians,' he said. 'The idea of killing Aborigines would have mortified them.' He argues that while the end result was the virtual extinction of Aborigines on the island, 'genocide is a matter of intention. The British had no idea that the diseases they introduced would have the result that they did'. For decades, historians have argued that the British in Tasmania came close to carrying out the world's first successful genocide. They point to frontier clashes between Aborigines and settlers between 1824 and 1831, known as the Black War, in which hundreds of Aborigines were thought to have died. In 1834, the last surviving 135 Aborigines were moved to remote and windswept Flinders Island in Bass Strait between Tasmania and the Australian mainland. Within four years most had died of disease or despair. Mr Windschuttle says much evidence cited by previous academics has been either made up or taken out of context, and that only 181 Aborigines were deliberately killed by the British. 'I first became suspicious of the official line two years ago. When I went back to the archives, I found that the counter-evidence literally came tumbling out at me,' he said, adding that 'the myth started in the early 1800s, with a newspaper editor who had a grudge against' the then lieutenant-governor, George Arthur'. But Michael Mansell, an Aboriginal lawyer and rights activist, believes 'several hundred' Aborigines were shot and killed by British settlers and soldiers. 'There was every attempt by the British to eliminate my people for the sole purpose of getting access to their land,' he said.