by Noelani Arista
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019. Pp. vi, 302.
Illus., stemma, gloss., append., notes, index. $45.00. ISBN: 0812250737
When Hawai’i was Independent
Prof. Arista (Hawai’i at Manoa) gives us a “decolonialized” history of Hawai’i when it was an internationally recognized sovereign state, from the monarch of the early nineteenth century, through the “Republican” coup in 1893 that overthrew the House of Kamehameha, and on to its annexation by the United States in 1898.
Arista argues that the prevailing narrative is largely based on culturally biased accounts by Christian missionaries and others whose perception was that of a savage society with a primitive culture in need of Christianization, not to mention economic “development”, essentially a euphemism for exploitation. She very convincingly draws upon an impressive mass of “native” documents largely overlooked by historians studying the history of the islands. These included newspapers, royal and official publications, and, perhaps most usefully, transcriptions of oral histories, genealogies, and the like, to give us a more rounded picture.
What emerges from Arista’s account is that the Kingdom of Hawai’i was a rather sophisticated, well managed society, seeking to adapt to a changing world. She unfortunately says little about the defense of the islands, although military journals of the day often reported on the efforts by the kingdom to create a European model modern army and a small navy.
The Kingdom and the Republic, a volume in the Pennsylvania series "America in the Nineteenth Century", is an important read for anyone with an interest in the Pacific world, and the American Empire. It may also prove useful reading for those working on the history of other societies where the indigenous voice has been overlooked, and even students of Ancient History, trying to wring reality from mythology and often one-sided histories.
Note: The Kingdom and the Republic is also available in several e-editions.
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