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Shoal of Time by Gavin Daws

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Gavan Daws’ remarkable achievement is to free Hawaiian history from the dust of antiquity. Based on years of work in the documentary sources, Shoal of Time emerges as the most readable of all Hawaiian histories.

In SHOAL OF TIME, the alltime bestselling history of the islands, Gavan Daws tells the real-life story: how the winds of change, blowing from the big world, gusted through human life in Hawaiʻi for more than two centuries, at hurricane force.

The islands were mapped for the first time in 1778. Immediately, Western traders started trafficking in guns. American missionaries brought the Ten Commandments. Con men turned up. Dreamers and delusionals. And all kinds of escapees from civilization–hang your conscience on Cape Horn and have your way with brown-skinned native girls. By mid-nineteenth century, with the Pacific whaling industry at its peak, drunken sailors were coming ashore at Honolulu and Lahaina in thousands, looking for a good time, finding it–and spreading diseases of the big world. Syphilis, gonorrhea, cholera, typhus, influenza, measles, tuberculosis, smallpox, bubonic plague, leprosy. In 1778 there were hundreds of thousands of Hawaiians; by 1900, no more than forty thousand.

The Hawaiian kingdom was tiny, and the big world was huge. The nineteenth century was the high water mark of Western imperialism, worldwide, and the great powers were planting their flags across the Pacific. Hawaiʻi was in their sights, and often enough there were warships in Honolulu harbor.

By late in the century, two strong American currents were running, one east from the islands, one west from the continent.