Hawaii School Reports - Hawaii History

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History of the Hawaiian Islands

Also See:
Ancient Times
Monarchy Years
Territorial Years
Statehood to Present
Hawaii Timeline
Key People & Events
Polynesian Voyaging
Kamehameha Dynasty
Captain Cook
Mark Twain
U.S. Civil War (whaling & sugar)
Pearl Harbor/WWII
Immigration Timeline
'Ohana Pages

History of Hawaii
Legends & Myths
Hawaii Museums

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Who's Telling the Story? Does it Matter?

Events and people in Hawaii's history have received a lot of attention in recent years -- the fact that you're reading this is evidence of that!

There are many differing interpretations of what Hawaii was like before western contact, the abilities and accomplishments of the rulers in leading the people of the islands into relationships with the wider world after centuries of near isolation, and what actually happened during the period where the sovereignty of the islands passed from the Kingdom of Hawai'i to the United States. There are as many differing opinions of what all of this means today.

When studying history, it's important to understand the difference between facts and interpretations or opinions. Some believe that sovereignty never did pass to the U.S., and this opinion is valid, so even the statement above would be considered interpretation! Others believe that the system of government chosen by the citizens of the United States is superior to any other, and this opinion is also valid, so these folks might think it's meaningless to say any more than Hawaii's now a state, everyone's better off, and all that stuff happened a long time ago, so what difference does it make? These are ONLY opinions and beliefs, though, they are not facts.

Another important consideration when studying history is that we need to try to put ourselves in the time and place of the people and events we study. Times were different. Customs were different. Even some of the laws were different. Neither Hawaii nor the United States was much then like each is today. No matter how significant or isolated any single event may seem, it should also be viewed in relation to other events, in the islands, in the United States; and around the world.

A final consideration is to remember that the writer of any history has a reason for writing what they do. This is called motive and can influence the way an event or person is described. Nearly all of what is written about Hawaii's history is tainted by the motivation of the writer, including what you're reading this instant!

As you use the resources we've gathered here, please keep these things in mind. What we know of Hawaii's history is in as much flux as the times themselves. Much of what has been written would have us believe that pre-contact natives were savages, that the rulers were incompetent, and that the overthrow, annexation, and ultimately statehood was good for Hawaii, that it's what Hawaii's people wanted and that it's what the people of the United States wanted. As is often the case, it depends on who you ask!

We've divided Hawaii's history into four distinct periods:

  • Ancient Times - Contact
    Origins of the islands through European contact in the 18th Century: Volcanoes; Polynesian voyaging; first settlers; James Cook; Kamehameha the Great.
  • Monarchy Years
    19th Century: unification of the islands; missionaries; Kamehameha Dynasty; international relations; trade and commerce; immigration; constitutional government; Monarchs; overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii; transitional government.
  • Territorial Years
    20th Century: Annexation of Hawaii to the United States; territorial government; plantations; unions; Pearl Harbor; World War II; post-war business and politics.
  • Statehood to Present 
    Modern Hawaii: tourism; agriculture; military; education; economy; government; social and political issues.
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