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The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii is the only one to have once been a royal kingdom. After its “discovery” by Captain Cook in the late 18th Century, Hawaii was fought over by European powers determined to take advantage of its position as the crossroads of the Pacific.  The arrival of the first missionaries marked the beginning of the struggle between a nativ The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii is the only one to have once been a royal kingdom. After its “discovery” by Captain Cook in the late 18th Century, Hawaii was fought over by European powers determined to take advantage of its position as the crossroads of the Pacific.  The arrival of the first missionaries marked the beginning of the struggle between a native culture with its ancient gods, sexual libertinism and rites of human sacrifice, and the rigid values of the Calvinists.   While Hawaii’s royal rulers adopted Christianity, they also fought to preserve their ancient ways.   But the success of the ruthless American sugar barons sealed their fate and in 1893, the American Marines overthrew Lili’uokalani, the last queen of Hawaii. James L. Haley's Captive Paradise is the story of King Kamehameha I, The Conqueror, who unified the islands through terror and bloodshed, but whose dynasty succumbed to inbreeding; of Gilded Age tycoons like Claus Spreckels who brilliantly outmaneuvered his competitors; of firebrand Lorrin Thurston, who was determined that Hawaii be ruled by whites; of President McKinley, who presided over the eventual annexation of the islands. Not since James Michener’s classic novel Hawaii has there been such a vibrant and compelling portrait of an extraordinary place and its people.


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The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii is the only one to have once been a royal kingdom. After its “discovery” by Captain Cook in the late 18th Century, Hawaii was fought over by European powers determined to take advantage of its position as the crossroads of the Pacific.  The arrival of the first missionaries marked the beginning of the struggle between a nativ The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii is the only one to have once been a royal kingdom. After its “discovery” by Captain Cook in the late 18th Century, Hawaii was fought over by European powers determined to take advantage of its position as the crossroads of the Pacific.  The arrival of the first missionaries marked the beginning of the struggle between a native culture with its ancient gods, sexual libertinism and rites of human sacrifice, and the rigid values of the Calvinists.   While Hawaii’s royal rulers adopted Christianity, they also fought to preserve their ancient ways.   But the success of the ruthless American sugar barons sealed their fate and in 1893, the American Marines overthrew Lili’uokalani, the last queen of Hawaii. James L. Haley's Captive Paradise is the story of King Kamehameha I, The Conqueror, who unified the islands through terror and bloodshed, but whose dynasty succumbed to inbreeding; of Gilded Age tycoons like Claus Spreckels who brilliantly outmaneuvered his competitors; of firebrand Lorrin Thurston, who was determined that Hawaii be ruled by whites; of President McKinley, who presided over the eventual annexation of the islands. Not since James Michener’s classic novel Hawaii has there been such a vibrant and compelling portrait of an extraordinary place and its people.

30 review for Captive Paradise: The Story of the United States and Hawaii

  1. 5 out of 5

    Greg Linster

    My family and I moved to O'ahu in 2014 and we quickly discovered trouble in paradise. I decided to listen to this book to learn more about the history and culture of my new island home, and perhaps to learn more about why I dislike aspects of the culture and the city of Honolulu so much. This is a history of Hawai'i that is void of political correctness and thankfully the author was in a safe position to write it. If you're interested in Hawaiian history, this is a book to read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karol K

    Tragic and sad story. Painful to read. I marvel how these same methods of greed and treachery continue to this day with impunity. I recommended highly read the real story not the sugar coated one in our history books.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Despite having covered American history multiple times in school, I knew nothing about the way Hawaii became part of the US. It turns out, it’s a fascinating story! This history begins with Captain Cook’s arrival on the islands and the state of native culture at the time. From then on, everything is conflict. There’s a struggle between different world powers to make use of Hawaii economically, a culture clash between missionaries and Hawaiians who want preserve native traditions, and several tum Despite having covered American history multiple times in school, I knew nothing about the way Hawaii became part of the US. It turns out, it’s a fascinating story! This history begins with Captain Cook’s arrival on the islands and the state of native culture at the time. From then on, everything is conflict. There’s a struggle between different world powers to make use of Hawaii economically, a culture clash between missionaries and Hawaiians who want preserve native traditions, and several tumultuous changes in the Hawaiian government. The history ends with the annexation of Hawaii, but I’d love to learned even more about the aftermath of annexation. Typically, I prefer books that proceed in strictly chronological order, but I actually liked that this book didn’t. The beginning gave an overview of some early Hawaiian history before diving into all the political and genealogical details, which I thought was very helpful. A cast list would have been even better, but I eventually felt as though I was able to get a handle on who everyone was. Once I got into it, I enjoyed the complex relationships and politics a lot. I also found the Hawaiian culture and the reactions of explorers to Hawaiian culture very interesting. As you might have gathered from my summary, there was a lot of action in this book. The revolutions and the stand-offs reminded me of my favorite adventure narrative nonfiction and were my favorite parts of the book. Other parts were a bit dry and read too much like a list of facts for my taste. I suspect that having to keep track of all the many different people in the political sections were a big part of that and again, a cast list would probably have helped with this. Overall, this was a enjoyable read and I learned a lot of fun facts, but it didn’t quite blow me away the way more action-packed narrative nonfiction books have. This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rob Peters

    Captive Paradise is a well researched, balanced and intriguing history of the Hawaiian Islands. Starting from the earliest documented days with the Polynesian descended people through it's entry to the United States as a state, Haley recounts the story in a compelling manner. He doesn't shy away from the hard details of what the culture was like before the Islands were "discovered" by "civilized" Western cultures. From recounting the sometimes brutal religious practices, hierarchical and imbalanc Captive Paradise is a well researched, balanced and intriguing history of the Hawaiian Islands. Starting from the earliest documented days with the Polynesian descended people through it's entry to the United States as a state, Haley recounts the story in a compelling manner. He doesn't shy away from the hard details of what the culture was like before the Islands were "discovered" by "civilized" Western cultures. From recounting the sometimes brutal religious practices, hierarchical and imbalanced social structure, equality and empowerment of women, sexual freedom, and natural generous, welcoming, and curious nature of the people Haley paints what seems to be an honest and fair picture. Contact with the broader world brought new concepts and challenges to the natives. They learned quickly about bartering and weapons. The later was a key to Kamehameha being able to unify the islands into a single kingdom. With the arrival of the missionaries Haley labors to share the different perspectives of the groups and their almost parental feelings towards the indigenous population. He is careful to show the good they did like introducing a written language and education, achieving an almost total literacy rate. At the same time he points out the harm. They brought diseases that decimated the native population, imposed puritanical values, suppressed native culture and tradition, and over generations robbed the people of their rights. Taking on the complicated transition of the island to an International player in the economy he provides understanding as to how and why Hawaii was quietly conquered through politics. The many twists and turns of different nations looking to assert power over the island to control the strategic geographic position, and valuable agriculture are well documented. He also gives unflinching account of the rulers and their successes and failings. Haley accounts how the descendants of the missionaries worked to suppress the native peoples do many immigrants for their own gains and fortunes. The intrigues of the American and International political landscape, sugar industry, self serving individuals, racial tensions and evolving moralities all served to shape the history of Hawaii. Sometimes the impacts were good and at others pushed things backwards for this island Paradise. Captive Paradise is well worth the time to read. It provide and analytical, balanced and influencing account.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matija

    In keeping up with my tradition of reading a little bit about every place I visit, I picked up this narrative history of the Hawaiian Islands in the Ala Moana bookstore in Honolulu. It had been released a few days earlier, so it was practically fresh off the presses. I'm not sure what exactly qualifies Mr. James L. Haley as very suitable for the daunting task of writing down Hawaii's history. I'm pretty certain the moniker "independent scholar", touted on the cover, means that he's not a trained In keeping up with my tradition of reading a little bit about every place I visit, I picked up this narrative history of the Hawaiian Islands in the Ala Moana bookstore in Honolulu. It had been released a few days earlier, so it was practically fresh off the presses. I'm not sure what exactly qualifies Mr. James L. Haley as very suitable for the daunting task of writing down Hawaii's history. I'm pretty certain the moniker "independent scholar", touted on the cover, means that he's not a trained historian, however, I have to admit he does a reasonably good job of it. Particularly to be commended are his impartial ways, as he refuses to fall prone to several common traps, such as judging 19th century people from 21st century perspective and white-washing either the (often brutal) pre-contact Hawaiian culture or else the latter American, European and Asian influence. He also avoids putting important historical figures, such as Kamehameha the Conqueror or the last queen, Lili'uokalani, on pedestals and is in fact possibly more critical of them than the Hawaiians would be. Naturally, the narrative starts with Captain Cook's "discovery" of the islands, his exploration of the archipelago and his eventual death on the Big Island. I was hoping for a bit more info on how life was like before European contact, but since the Polynesians never discovered writing, not much is known anyway, especially not about the first settlers who had been later conquered by Tahitian immigrants. What follows is the description of Kamehameha's conquest of the entire island chain. I find this part to be possibly the least satisfactory one in the whole book. Not only do I feel that not enough ink was spent on such a crucially important persona as Kamehameha the Conqueror, but all the bloody battles fought to achieve the conquest are more mentioned than described. It is rather disappointing to have them listed in a factual way rather than having them pictured in one's mind, as it would be really interesting to see how the Hawaiians waged war and how the introduction of western-made weaponry and tactics had changed it all. There's a couple more criticisms that could be leveled at Captive Paradise, such as too liberal use of footnotes (which reside in the back of the book, necessitating a lot of back-and-forth paging) and the dispatching of whole scores of years of Hawaiian history in a few paragraphs (particularly the post-annexation years - for example, the devastating tsunami of 1946 is not even mentioned and the attack on Pearl Harbor only in passing), but in the end I think the author achieves what he set out to do - provide a non-judgmental, non-biased overview of Hawaiian history. It falls short of literary greatness due to dry descriptions of historical figures and some important events, but that was probably never its goal, since it leans more towards academic narrative.

  6. 4 out of 5

    MBJ

    Not Quite Captivating but a Well Presented History - "That Hawaii would one day end up a possession of an imperial power seems inevitable." Thus concludes James L. Haley in Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii. Hawaii was a pawn in an era of shifting global power, a central theme of Haley's book. He discloses upfront and unapologetically his intent to present Hawaii's saga with objectivity, no easy feat given the controversial nature of his subject. Haley opines that there was a time when polit Not Quite Captivating but a Well Presented History - "That Hawaii would one day end up a possession of an imperial power seems inevitable." Thus concludes James L. Haley in Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii. Hawaii was a pawn in an era of shifting global power, a central theme of Haley's book. He discloses upfront and unapologetically his intent to present Hawaii's saga with objectivity, no easy feat given the controversial nature of his subject. Haley opines that there was a time when political correctness meant telling the Hawaii story as one of America's greatness, rationalizing the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands in paternalistic terms. More recently, the trend has been to focus on the plight of Hawaiian natives, condemning the exploitative behavior of imperialists. Haley argues convincingly that reality lies somewhere in between these two perspectives. Before the arrival of the imperialistic powers, native chiefs and kings at times inflicted unspeakable horrors on the common people; in the imperialistic era, European powers, and later Americans opportunists, exploited the simple and trusting people of Hawaii in a power struggle that ended with American domination. Haley captures the breadth of this complicated and troubled history in a seemingly balanced manner. His writing is a bit dry, but his facts are well researched and presented. The book is slow to engage the reader, perhaps in part because the names of people and places are so dissonant to most of us. But eventually Captive Paradise does engage. For anyone interested in more than the stunning beauty of Hawaii and its storied beaches, I recommend persevering and reading Haley's book through the final chapter. It will not disappoint.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Megalion

    We all know that Hawaiians had a culture all their own and that it was largely destroyed in the American seizure of Hawaiian territories. It's a given. I wanted to know more about pre-US Hawaii. And the lead up to it. James Haley delivers this and more. In the prologue, he discusses a conversation with a mentor about his plan to write this book. He's already done extensive research and has found some surprising information that doesn't fit the above narrative. "I was also increasingly surprised and We all know that Hawaiians had a culture all their own and that it was largely destroyed in the American seizure of Hawaiian territories. It's a given. I wanted to know more about pre-US Hawaii. And the lead up to it. James Haley delivers this and more. In the prologue, he discusses a conversation with a mentor about his plan to write this book. He's already done extensive research and has found some surprising information that doesn't fit the above narrative. "I was also increasingly surprised and troubled by the pervasive oppression of the common people by their own chiefs and kings before Americans ever showed up. I cited several examples; the professor nodded and allowed that this was indeed the case, but he warned me that if I wrote the book that way and did not “position” the Hawaiians as victims of American racism and exploitation, as he said, it “won’t help you get accepted back into grad school.”
I marinated in this irony for a few moments and said, “This must be what they mean by academic freedom.” Noting my shock, the professor went on to say that race, gender, and exploitation have ruled the scholarly paradigm for thirty years, and are entrenched for probably thirty more." " Three years of research have chastened me with the sense that virtually nothing in Hawaiian history has a single cause, and virtually no one acted out of a single motivation. It is not a simple history, and it cannot be explained simply, certainly not with recourse to the easy remedies of a previous academic era—native savagery and simplicity—or of the current one—the Anglo sense of hegemony and entitlement. " Thiss fascinating. In most cases, there are more than one sides to the story, and even if they appear to contradict each other, I believe that many times, they are all mostly true. Haley found and shares many of these "other sides" and pieces together a narrative that seems more inclusive of the various sides and how they saw things. I think he's found the bigger picture that is closest to the 'truth' of it all that anyone could ask for given the tight control over pre-contact Hawaii history by the a'ali, the chiefs and royalty. " one Web site promoting Hawaiian tourism writes on its history page that “it is difficult to find an objective Hawaiian history that is accurate and unemotional.”5 My goal with this book is to make that a little less difficult." An example of startling revelations that cast events in a different light: Cpt Cook was the British captain that "discovered" Hawaii as far as Europeans were concerned. This is the benchmark point of "contact" as referred to above. He was aware of the need to keep his sailors from infecting the local women with STDs and also to generally not impede on the native gene pools. He blamed himself for losing control of the sexual interaction and subsequent consequences. What he didn't know: Japanese ships had been stumbling across Hawaii long before. Via shipwrecks and etc. Syphilis had become an epidemic in Japan about 250 years before and it's likely that 2/3rds of their sailors were infected. The probability that the Hawaiian people were already infected before Cook's men came ashore? Quite high. The actual truth is unknown but clearly some hubris on Cpt Cook's part to assume that his ship was the first encounter the natives had. Another side to this story, Hawaiians were very progressive in terms of gender roles and equality. And very much in touch with their sexuality. Cpt Cook may have tried to keep his sailors confined to the ships, but that didn't deter the women who were very determined to jump their bones and hopefully get pregnant by them. They came on board in droves. Performed very erotic and blatantly seductive hulas. And apparently in some cases, gave the sailor no choice in the matter and dragged him into bed. Cook had to concede the matter to the natives. We can't say for sure who brought syphilis to the islands but seems clear that any sexual predation was in the reverse. Haley comments at one point that historians are prone to "presentism". Tendency to view the cultures and morals of people hundreds of years ago through today's morals. It's a safe bet that this is part of what has colored the perception of the island history over the past 200 years. Haley doesn't try to excuse the travesties that occurred. His goal is to properly identify and source the factors that affected the timeline and events that came to pass. Another example that illustrates this: The first time that a Hawaiian king thought about US Annexation, it was an option he was considering pursuing because Britain and France were being bullies and demanding all kinds of "reparations" from the Hawaiians for reasons never quite clear. The king was desperate for a way to back off the two imperialist nations before they tried to seize the islands outright. Proposing that the US annex the islands on a time limited basis was one possible way to do it. So the first time the issue ever came up of the US annexing the islands, came from the islands themselves. And in direct response to Britain and France. The US was largely indifferent at the time still. I'll share one more thing that dramatically changed the perspective for me. The Christian missionaries. Pre-contact, the natives waged war on each other 8 months of the year. A particularly bloody conflict ended with the survivors escaping to the mainland. They converted to Christianity and became convinced that missionaries were the answer to bringing peace to the islands. This means that the first big waves of missionaries that came to the islands, did so at the enthusiastic invitations of at least some of the natives. Here's the part that really got me. They established schools and began teaching them how to read and write. Hawaiians took to it so strongly that they became the most LITERATE population in the world. And remained so for a long time. I came away from this book realizing that at least in Hawaii, the missionaries as a whole, were genuinely well intended. Served real purpose. Overall, they did more good than harm. Directly. Their fundamental mistake... not teaching their own vast broods of children properly. Haley wastes no opportunity to point out that many of the major players in the destruction and domination of Hawaii, were the children and grandchildren of the missionaries. Haley fills every page with detail. There's no filler content to pad out the page count. If anything, I'm sure he had to cut out parts to keep it under 400 pages (not counting the extensive footnotes and bibliography). The only criticism I have of this work, he would skip back and forth along the timeline of events. I would read about a monarch's death. But then a little while on, be confused because he's referenced in the present time of the narrative. I wish he would have refrained from describing the passing of key a'lai until the events in the narrative definitively reach the point of their death. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has a passing interest in Hawaii's history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    This is a well written, lively history of Hawaii from when Captain Cook landed there to its controversial annexation by the United States. The author, James Haley, offers a more nuanced and in some ways revisionist view of Hawaii's history during this time. Haley contrasts a common view that Kamehamcha "unified" the islands with a detailed account of a "brutal conquest" of the other islands with the help of guns he obtained from English and Americans with technical advice from captive western sa This is a well written, lively history of Hawaii from when Captain Cook landed there to its controversial annexation by the United States. The author, James Haley, offers a more nuanced and in some ways revisionist view of Hawaii's history during this time. Haley contrasts a common view that Kamehamcha "unified" the islands with a detailed account of a "brutal conquest" of the other islands with the help of guns he obtained from English and Americans with technical advice from captive western sailors who were rewarded with their efforts. Haley also describes Kamehamcha luring enemies to peace meetings only to kill and sacrifice them to his gods. The brutality of these wars included killing all family members of enemies, leading some to swim to western ships to escape certain death because of a family relationship One of the escapees settled in New England and eventually wanted to return to Hawaii and teach his newfound Christianity. While he died before he was able to return, he did inspire a missionary movement to Hawaii. Again, Haley offers a balanced view, he recounts their paternalism, their rigid life seemingly devoid of joy, their harsh judgment of aspects of native culture but also noted good intent, a relative lack of racism(Hawaiins who later traveled to the United States were often treated cruelly because of their dark skin, something that they said they had not experienced with the white missionaries in Hawaii) and worked to end some clearly evil aspects of native life such as human sacrifice and infanticide. Haley describes the increasing contact with the western world based on demand for a certain wood from the islands and its usefulness as a port for whalers and traders. England and France both used gunboat diplomacy at various times to try to force submission but skillful negotiations and friendship with the United States which did not use force at that time averted domination and planted the seeds of an American/ Hawaii friendship. The western influences continued to wreak havoc with Hawaiin culture and economy and lead to the development of the sugar industry which changed history. Haley describes this from a Hawaii point of view and details how some Hawaii leaders had success in protecting and enhancing the lives of their people and how some utterly failed. The controversies of the various successions are thoroughly discussed and I was left wondering that if Hawaii had been more democratic and not so dependent on royal succession it would have been better able to resist the later domination. Haley's nuanced view continues with the events leading to annexation. Sugar planters and other westerners did conspire to "overthrow" Hawaii rule, constitutions were forced on Hawaii after Americans sent marines into town to show force. However, the United States under Grover Cleveland investigated these events and found that the American navy based in Hawaii exceeded its authority and the request for annexation was due to force and against Hawaii will. The United States at the time even replaced American flags with native flags, recalled the Ambassador who was involved in the force and reprimanded the naval officers. However, the length of communication and initial representations by the Queen that she would execute Americans (which while soon recanted was too late in reaching United States(who had been involved in the plot lessened American sympathy. That lack of sympathy was increased when the Democrat Cleveland was replaced by Republican William McKinley who had more of a world wide interventionist or imperial view. Still, Ka'iulani's and others trip to Washington DC and a sense of fair play by many in the United States lead the Senate to actually defeat annexation. However, McKinley changed course and annexed Hawaii as a terrority which only required a majority One reservation I had in reading this was when Haley's history of Hawaii intersected with American reconstruction. Haley expressed largely discredited views of reconstruction and it made me suspect aspects of his somewhat "revisionist" history of Hawaii, but this does not change the fact that this was a well researched, lively written and thought provoking history

  9. 5 out of 5

    Twila Newey

    The author struck me as a Christian apologist. He fawned over the early missionaries and thought the "savages" benefited from their conversion. Certainly, human sacrifice to the Hawaiian Gods was a horrific practice, but so was the forced capture and human sacrifice of slaves to the Christian God that was happening concurrently on the American Continent. He did not connect those dots. He acknowledged racism as problematic several times, but quickly glossed it over. The perspective felt "fair and The author struck me as a Christian apologist. He fawned over the early missionaries and thought the "savages" benefited from their conversion. Certainly, human sacrifice to the Hawaiian Gods was a horrific practice, but so was the forced capture and human sacrifice of slaves to the Christian God that was happening concurrently on the American Continent. He did not connect those dots. He acknowledged racism as problematic several times, but quickly glossed it over. The perspective felt "fair and balanced" the way a conservative partisan news outlet feels fair and balanced--perhaps better facts here though--factual, but with a clearly apologetic bent. So, I gave it three stars because I liked parts of it and it did give me a detailed overview of Hawaiian history that I can clarify and fill in by reading native historical accounts. And finally, he did argue that the events leading up to and the annexation of Hawaii by the sugar boys (a small faction of the missionary's sons and grandsons) was wrong and reparations ought to be made but then continued to rant on about how a return to a romanticized past that never existed is impossible. Based on his own arguments the Hawaiian Monarchy had already shifted from what he paints as a violent hierarchy, to serving the interests of the native population in the 1800's. So, I'm not sure who he's arguing with when he rants on about Native groups wanting a return to the old ways. From the little I've read, most Hawaiian Independence groups, seem to want their lands back and any restoration of the old religion would be about honoring native traditions and their connection to their land, not a return to older superstitions or violent religious rites. Hierarchy? Maybe, it would surprise me, as everyone's lineage has become more broad and complex, but shouldn't that be their choice? When will the U.S. stop with the paternalizing hypocrisy? This is just a beginning for me. I plan to read broadly.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Required reading for anyone who may want to retire in Hawaii. Very interesting history

  11. 5 out of 5

    carl theaker

    A captivating look at the history of probably the most well known and remote islands in the world. The real estate folks tell us it’s all about location and the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii’s earliest European name, had it as a strategic crossroads in the vastness of the Pacific. The early visits to the islands by explorers, whalers and later missionaries cause fascinating twists and turns in the evolution of the native culture that have you wondering ‘if only’ this or that decision had been made. A captivating look at the history of probably the most well known and remote islands in the world. The real estate folks tell us it’s all about location and the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii’s earliest European name, had it as a strategic crossroads in the vastness of the Pacific. The early visits to the islands by explorers, whalers and later missionaries cause fascinating twists and turns in the evolution of the native culture that have you wondering ‘if only’ this or that decision had been made. The Polynesian culture was a highly sexual one, the hula an erotic, welcoming dance, and the early Europeans were viewed as desirable rock stars. Ship captains struggled to keep their crews ! (The later infamous Captain Bligh served on Captain James Cook discovery ship). For tourist reasons, there is a sanitized history of the good old days presented to keep the lure of the islands in the imagination of visitors. Author Haley even handedly corrects that notion, pre-European Hawaii was a feudal world where royalty ruled with a brutal hand of terror, human sacrifice and a custom of infanticide. The missionaries, requested by Hawaiians, arrived at a timely moment when the islanders had tossed aside the old repressive ways, and were looking for new. What an effect they had on the course of the culture. As the world’s various powers angled to control the islands, Hawaii became addicted to a certain white powder, sugar, which became its economic power, but also an unbreakable, in good and bad ways, web-like connection to the United States. If one could say Haley exposes the early days of Hawaii, he is no less thorough on the eventual annexation by the United States in what amounts to a coup. The whole episode also has its in and outs with the Hawaiian Queen missing some opportunities to keep her country at an arm’s length. One wonders how long Hawaii could have stayed independent? —— Author Haley gave a talk at a local Kiwanis meeting. He was an enthusiastic speaker, and certainly has a passion for his subject. He told us certain factions in Hawaii were not happy with his tell-it-like-it-was style. Not often I buy hardback books, but with the chance to get a signed copy and showing appreciation for his talk, I did, and hardcovers do have an extra readable feel to them. This one has a beautiful cover with raised letters. I’m putting his ‘Passion Nation: The Epic History of Texas’ on the ‘to read list’.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Prima Seadiva

    More like 2.5 stars. Audiobook. Reader pretty good. I found this book to be a bit of a trudge. Way more repetitive in detail than I liked. It has the common downfall of many non-fiction audiobooks, no available footnotes, no table of contents, hard to browse around other chapters. I did find the overall viewpoint somewhat interesting as both the native and western influences had plenty of positive and negative attributes.Some more contemporary history after annexation would be interesting but this More like 2.5 stars. Audiobook. Reader pretty good. I found this book to be a bit of a trudge. Way more repetitive in detail than I liked. It has the common downfall of many non-fiction audiobooks, no available footnotes, no table of contents, hard to browse around other chapters. I did find the overall viewpoint somewhat interesting as both the native and western influences had plenty of positive and negative attributes.Some more contemporary history after annexation would be interesting but this book ends at that point in time. I knew next to nothing about Hawaii except from a few friends who have lived there years ago and except for one person all liked it. Now I know a bit more. I have never been there and am unlikely to visit.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura (Madsen) McLain

    Interesting history of Hawaii, from Captain Cook to the end of kapu (“The gods were dead, the only known time in the history of the world when a people threw over a long-established religious system with nothing to replace it”) to missionaries to sugar plantations to statehood and Pearl Harbor.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Doug Noakes

    Mr Haley's book only covers 120 years of Hawaiian history, from 1779 to 1898, with a brief overview of Hawaii as a territory and later a state in the American Union. But those 120 years, arguably, are the key to understanding how the Islands (originally called the "Sandwich Islands" after Captain Cook's noble patron) entered the modern world and how this paradise was fought over by the USA, Britain and France from without and from within by a multitude of warring kings and sometimes queens. Hawa Mr Haley's book only covers 120 years of Hawaiian history, from 1779 to 1898, with a brief overview of Hawaii as a territory and later a state in the American Union. But those 120 years, arguably, are the key to understanding how the Islands (originally called the "Sandwich Islands" after Captain Cook's noble patron) entered the modern world and how this paradise was fought over by the USA, Britain and France from without and from within by a multitude of warring kings and sometimes queens. Hawaii literally was not on the map to the Western world until it was "discovered" in 1778 by the great British mariner Captain Cook. The fact that Spain, Holland and Portugal and England had been a presence in the Pacific for a couple centuries speak to the point that the Islands are the most geographically isolated land mass in the world. By the time James Cook and his ship HMS Resolution arrived the Polynesians who had settled there centuries earlier had built a feudal-style civilization that had suffered as many wars over the islands as the Europeans had back home. The Hawaiians lacked iron for weapons and also a written language. The weapons gap was "solved" by Europeans and Americans introducing guns and large ships to the indigenous people. This enabled the great king, Kamehameha I, to unite the Islands by force, establish a ruling dynasty that lasted until 1893, and begin to cultivate crops (like sandalwood and later, of course, sugar) for export. It wasn't long after Western influence began that the native religion "kapu" was discarded by a female monarch, Queen Ka'ahumanu. The Calvinist missionaries who came in the wake of this theological revolution from New England can be credited with giving the Hawaiians a written language and schools, which the native "kanakas" (common people) took up and created the most literate society in the world. But Westerners and Japanese traders and advisors also brought diseases that decimated the population. And it wasn't long before the earnest missionaries were replaced by the second and third generation of "Hawaiian-Americans", a group largely educated in the elite schools of the USA and bringing with them the prejudices toward dark skin people that colored the view of Hawaiians as a people fit to govern themselves. The large numbers of American and European emigrants slowly changed the balance of power in Hawaii. AS exports became more important, Hawaiians shifted from having a stress-free existence (save for the bloody rituals that resulted from dynastic conflicts) into working on the new plantation economy. There was some innovations that helped the kanakas (like "The Great Mahele", which introduced private land holdings in the 1840s) but most of the gains were snapped up by Westerners. Hawaii's story is ultimately a sad one. After several episodes of bad government decisions by her rulers, under the stresses of appeasing business interests, the islands succumbed to the same aggressive capitalist-colonial system that divided up almost all of Africa at roughly the same period. By the 1880s, business men of occidental background like Sanford Dole and Lorrin Thurston more and more treated the Hawaiian kings and queens as pawns, however rebellious the pawns could be from time to time. As the government ministers became de facto rulers, Hawaii's future was sealed as an American territory opening the Pacific to Manifest Destiny. This book opened a History of the 50th State the details of which was skipped over in my schooling. Therefore I'd recommend it to anyone else who wants a better background to a place known to most Americans, if at all, as simply a vacation spot.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jo Stafford

    The little I knew about Hawaii's history before I read Captive Paradise could be summed up as follows: the indigenous people's culture is similar to the cultures of other Polynesian peoples; Captain James Cook met his death there; there was an active American missionary presence; sugar came to dominate the economy to such an extent that Chinese and Japanese laborers were brought in to work the plantations; the islands were annexed by the United States following the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalan The little I knew about Hawaii's history before I read Captive Paradise could be summed up as follows: the indigenous people's culture is similar to the cultures of other Polynesian peoples; Captain James Cook met his death there; there was an active American missionary presence; sugar came to dominate the economy to such an extent that Chinese and Japanese laborers were brought in to work the plantations; the islands were annexed by the United States following the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani; Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941; and Hawaii was the birthplace of President Barack Obama. Haley's nuanced book was a revelation. His highly engaging narrative of the road to annexation is multi-faceted, delving into the complex and varied motivations of the Hawaiian nobility, Christian missionaries of various denominations, American-Hawaiian businesspeople, sugar barons, and British, French and US politicians and diplomats during the course of the roughly 120 years his work focuses on. This is an even-handed book. Haley is critical of the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, describing it as indefensible. He does not romanticize Hawaiian culture, and points to practices such as infanticide and human sacrifice as elements of the culture that the missionaries did well to eliminate. He also observes that the missionaries' attitudes to sex and female power were at odds with those of the Hawaiians, and I got a strong sense of how Christianity undermined women's ability to wield power as they had been accustomed to. Captive Paradise introduced me to a history I was barely aware of and gave me a much greater understanding of the myriad factors that ultimately led to Hawaii becoming part of the United States.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kim Hotzon

    Hawaii is known today for surfing, pineapples, beautiful beaches and luaus but it has an equally mermerizing history. Hawaii was annexed in 1898 (becoming a state of America in 1959) after the overthrow of the monarchy. This book presents a darker side to Hawaii that many may be unfamiliar with, including savage rituals and infanticide. Because of it's geographical isolation, the Hawaiian islands lay undiscovered and undisturbed until the arrival of Captain Cooke in the 1700's. With the arrival Hawaii is known today for surfing, pineapples, beautiful beaches and luaus but it has an equally mermerizing history. Hawaii was annexed in 1898 (becoming a state of America in 1959) after the overthrow of the monarchy. This book presents a darker side to Hawaii that many may be unfamiliar with, including savage rituals and infanticide. Because of it's geographical isolation, the Hawaiian islands lay undiscovered and undisturbed until the arrival of Captain Cooke in the 1700's. With the arrival of missionaries soon after, the culture was suppressed, and many practices were denounced as heathen and sexually explicit, including the hula. Constantly besieged by dominating world powers, with Britain, France, America and Japan entering the dominion's harbours, it finally came under the economic and constitutional grip of the Americans. Intermarriage and incest weakened the great Kamehamaha dynasty, but it was a combination of factors that led to Hawaii's demise as an independent nation. These factors included the dwindling native population, the strategic location of the islands (and thus the desire to gain it), racial and class discrimination and political infighting and backstabbing. Though some chapters dragged in places, overall Captive Paradise proved to be an enthralling and educational read, providing great insight into the history of paradise in the Pacific.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nelson Minar

    A good, solid history of Hawai'i in the 19th century, almost entirely focussed on the time of the Hawaiian monarchy between contact in 1778 and the annexation by the US in 1898. It's a very detailed history of the experiences of the various kings, queens, and regents. With lots of detail from letters and personal stories of the time. I enjoyed this remarkably personal view of the history of the rulers of Hawai'i. But in focussing on the rulers the book suffers from not giving more of a picture of A good, solid history of Hawai'i in the 19th century, almost entirely focussed on the time of the Hawaiian monarchy between contact in 1778 and the annexation by the US in 1898. It's a very detailed history of the experiences of the various kings, queens, and regents. With lots of detail from letters and personal stories of the time. I enjoyed this remarkably personal view of the history of the rulers of Hawai'i. But in focussing on the rulers the book suffers from not giving more of a picture of what life was like for Hawaiians as a whole. I'm always curious what the experiences of basic laborers were, or townies, or immigrant laborers. Haley does discuss them a bit but only impersonally. OTOH the book is plenty long and detailed enough, and focussing that detail on the rulers makes sense for the story he wants to tell. I also appreciated the slightly revisionist history. Haley doesn't romanticize pre-colonial Hawai'i, giving the context of the very limited feudal traditional life. But then he certainly doesn't apologize for the colonialists either, and only a little for the missionaries. I also liked reading a more subtle story of the politics than "sugar barons stole the country". That was part of it, but there's more too, and the deeper story is interesting.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gilbreath

    After reading a couple of books on Hawaii history, this one is by far the best. The author completely removes the political correctness and just states in black and white what actually happened. It is a pretty sad book that is well written about the downfall of the Hawaiian empire/monarchy. It is however made very well aware that the devastation was at the fault of the Hawaiians as well as the other nations who frequently visited the islands. Many other books solely blame England, the US, France After reading a couple of books on Hawaii history, this one is by far the best. The author completely removes the political correctness and just states in black and white what actually happened. It is a pretty sad book that is well written about the downfall of the Hawaiian empire/monarchy. It is however made very well aware that the devastation was at the fault of the Hawaiians as well as the other nations who frequently visited the islands. Many other books solely blame England, the US, France, Japan, etc., but the Hawaiians succumbed to their own greed. This book actually shows how these outsiders actually saved the Hawaiians and extended the royal family’s life. If it weren’t for the visitors then they’d still be eating dogs (highly frowned upon by most societies), killed for eating BANANAS, performing human sacrifices (women, children, babies, elderly) for unbelievably petty reasons, brothers would be marrying sisters, ruining their own genetic pool, and more. Hawaii was truly a nightmarish place to live back then and was horrifically bloody. This author does such a good job truly exposing this “paradise” for what it really was before the “bad” white men showed up on the scene.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Fairly standard account of the annexation of Hawaii, with some welcome attention to the early period of contact, in which refugees from King Kamehameha's consolidation of power made the common fatal error of soliciting help from Christian New England missionaries to destabilize the political world of the islands--and we know how that always turns out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dorinda

    I want to know this material and it is interesting history and yet this author wrote in such a way I could not bear to struggle though another sentence after page 60

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This book has a difficult task and the author manages to succeed in that difficult task fairly well.  On the one hand, the author clearly wanted to write a factual and honest history of Hawaii that did not whitewash the past and the recognition that there never was a paradise in Hawaii.  On the other hand, though, the author has some clear advocacy and he is intensely critical about American interest in Hawaii as well as the corrupt and underhanded ways by which Hawaiian self-rule was sabotaged This book has a difficult task and the author manages to succeed in that difficult task fairly well.  On the one hand, the author clearly wanted to write a factual and honest history of Hawaii that did not whitewash the past and the recognition that there never was a paradise in Hawaii.  On the other hand, though, the author has some clear advocacy and he is intensely critical about American interest in Hawaii as well as the corrupt and underhanded ways by which Hawaiian self-rule was sabotaged and an independent Polynesian republic was brought into the United States under less than honorable means.  This is a hard balance to maintain, writing with a clear goal of supporting some repayment being made to native Hawaiians for their losses while not presenting the rule of Hawaiian elites as being civilized or benign for the kanakas under their domination.  By and large I think this balance works, even if I would have not been as harsh on the American missionaries, even if they were Calvinists.  The end result is a history of 19th century Hawaii that is compelling and exciting. This audiobook was 11 cds long and most of it covers the period of the 19th century, with a focus on the political history of Hawaii during this time.  The book begins with a look at Hawaii when Captain Cook first visited the islands and detailed the insatiable hunger of the islands for iron given their recognition of its superiority to their own technology.  After that the authors discuss the unification of Hawaii and the change in culture that came with the introduction of Christianity and its appeal to both elites and masses who had been brutalized by centuries of exploitative rule.  The author explores changes in land ownership and the struggle of the Hawaiians to maintain their demography in the face of diseases as well as the dissipation of the Hawaiian ruling dynasties, many of whom were alcoholic, wanted to marry close relatives, or struggled from weight issues and various other ailments.  As the book winds its way through various political machinations and the decline of the Hawaiian people and attempts by people on the ground from the UK, France, and finally the US seeking to gain control over Hawaii to add it to colonial empires, there is an understandable mood of sadness and frustration in the material, until it ends with a melancholy look at the end of dynasties and the rule of Hawaii by haoles. This book tells a tale that is scarcely known outside of Hawaii, and perhaps even there, and it presents the struggles of Hawaiian monarchs to preserve the independence of Hawaii in the face of imperialism on all sides as a Greek tragedy.  We know how things turn out, that the Hawaiians will eventually cease to be independent and that a great many parts of Oceania will remain to this day under the rule of European nations or their settler colonists, from Tahiti being under French rule to American rule over Guam, American Samoa, and Hawaii itself, but it is still fascinating to see the rulers of Hawaii struggle to obtain money and preserve their power in the face of imperial ambitions and melancholy to see the death of so many Hawaiians from diseases they simply had no immunity to.  The tragedy of this story, that with a bit of wisdom and decency Hawaii could have been preserved under its own rule, is tempered with the author's realization that in the 19th century no one was going to let Hawaii remain free of some sort of protectorate status, and eventually even with the American reluctance to annex places that had dark-skinned populations that the geopolitical importance of Hawaii in the pacific was simply too much to ignore.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jbussen

    This book, without bias as a scholarly history, proves what you already knew with facts well written. Hawaiians and other native peoples long with passionate nostalgia for a past that never was. If Hawaii wasn't taken by the Americans, it would have been the British, who did take the islands for a time. Or the French, who just parked a cannon threatening ship off Honolulu and took whatever they wanted Or the Russians, or the Japanese, or another. Life under the Ali'i and the Kapu system sucked. This book, without bias as a scholarly history, proves what you already knew with facts well written. Hawaiians and other native peoples long with passionate nostalgia for a past that never was. If Hawaii wasn't taken by the Americans, it would have been the British, who did take the islands for a time. Or the French, who just parked a cannon threatening ship off Honolulu and took whatever they wanted Or the Russians, or the Japanese, or another. Life under the Ali'i and the Kapu system sucked. Life later wasn't much better. but it was better. And the lands were never sacred to any Hawaiians. There are surviving records to prove such. All the paradise and peace and love never happened. Kamehameha wouldn't have even been conqueror but for Game of Thrones style twists of fate. There was a Hawaiian kingdom for only a generation before it was clear they would have little say in their fates, and that they had to become either subservient to the imperial power of their choosing or subservient to the imperial power of the one that would take them with overwhelming force. Good luck getting through to people who feel disenfranchised and will cling to false narratives and believe the beautiful lie, and ignore the ugly, proven truth.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I read this on our trip to Hawaii and it was a great overview of Hawaii's complex history. Easy reading with lots of gripping and entertaining stories, ranging from the pre-European contact tribal conflicts, the Hawaiian religious traditions and taboo system, Captain Cook's mis-adventures, the competing influences, threats, and protections of colonial powers, and the American annexation of Hawaii. A great primer for our visit! I agree that this author seemed to strike an appropriate balance in d I read this on our trip to Hawaii and it was a great overview of Hawaii's complex history. Easy reading with lots of gripping and entertaining stories, ranging from the pre-European contact tribal conflicts, the Hawaiian religious traditions and taboo system, Captain Cook's mis-adventures, the competing influences, threats, and protections of colonial powers, and the American annexation of Hawaii. A great primer for our visit! I agree that this author seemed to strike an appropriate balance in describing the horrors of life for most people in pre-European contact Hawaii as well the many unfortunate aspects of European and American influence/dominance.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ka'Iulani Blankenfeld

    While the book was factual and well written it leaned to empathize the non Hawaiian thought and culture, again putting Hawaiians in a negative light. The facts of modern day Hawaiian life are not factual and downright appalling. As a native Hawaiian there are many insults in this book, the worst being the audio readers complete disregard and disrespect of the language. I finished listening to this audio book feeling as if every part of me had been molested. If you publish a boom in any language, While the book was factual and well written it leaned to empathize the non Hawaiian thought and culture, again putting Hawaiians in a negative light. The facts of modern day Hawaiian life are not factual and downright appalling. As a native Hawaiian there are many insults in this book, the worst being the audio readers complete disregard and disrespect of the language. I finished listening to this audio book feeling as if every part of me had been molested. If you publish a boom in any language, the reader must be able to read and represent the language well.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I thought this was a great book on the history of Hawaii spanning from Captain Cook to annexation and eventual statehood. Hawaii certainly has a fascinating history and is unique with its history as an independent kingdom. I think the author does a good job of supplying appropriate context for some of the actions that were taken by Hawaiian rulers and American politicians that formed a Hawaii’s path and history. If you are interested in Hawaiian history, I would recommend this book. It’s comprehe I thought this was a great book on the history of Hawaii spanning from Captain Cook to annexation and eventual statehood. Hawaii certainly has a fascinating history and is unique with its history as an independent kingdom. I think the author does a good job of supplying appropriate context for some of the actions that were taken by Hawaiian rulers and American politicians that formed a Hawaii’s path and history. If you are interested in Hawaiian history, I would recommend this book. It’s comprehensive, but keeps its focus and is very readable while staying objective and fair.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Debra Waites

    We read this during a month long stay on the Big Island, Hawaii. It was a very interesting read and because much of the history was relatively recent easy to go to the places it talks about. The title sums it up tidily: it was a captive paradise before the West come to their shores when the Royal 1% dominated and it had brutal remains of a primitive culture. It was captive when the West added the modern appendages of its culture. And now, they continue to attempt to reconcile who they are.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Max

    Read the first several chapters of this before and during our Hawaii trip. It was well written, although I had a hard time with a lot of the unfamiliar Hawaiian people and place names. Possible that there is too much time devoted to the history of the colonizers, but they were the ones writing things down at that point, and there is a reasonable attempt to piece together some native Hawaiian history. I'd like to pick this back up next time I go back to Hawaii.

  28. 4 out of 5

    M. Abdul Ali

    This book represents a vivid and candid academic — even though the author argues against it —perspective of pre and post colonial Hawaii. At the end, I was able to understand the plight of the people from a macro perspective while reading lengthy details of each event that precipitated this chapter in history. The book is not necessarily the easiest read. But if you are vacationing in Kauai and need a good book to read during sunbathing - this might be it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    A history of Hawaii...I do think that this book gave an accounting of the history of the islands from their discovery by Captain Cook through the annexation by the United States. My hesitation in rating this book higher is about how each side is portrayed and the author's attempt to give a fair accounting of what occurred. Though Haley tried to portray each side fairly, I felt that perhaps the Hawaiians were not portrayed in as clear or fair a light as they could have been.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I thought Haley had a great perspective as a historian (though I don't think he'd call that his profession) trying to document a very contentious period of American imperialism. The story here is pretty fascinating, but I had a hard time getting through some of the writing (the parade of foreign names with little to no introduction and the abrupt context switching didn't help). This won't be the last book I read about Hawaii, though.

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