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Hawaiʻi - Early Accounts by Non-Hawaiians: Introduction

Hawaii - Early Accounts by Non-Hawaiians


This guide is based on a cheat sheet compiled by Joan Hori.

The following sources are far more thorough:

Knight, Cynthia D. Foreigners' Observations of Hawaii in the Early 1820s: A Selected Bibliography and Index to Journal Accounts. 1987.
Z4708 .A4 K58 1987

Judd, Bernice and Helen Yonge Lind. Voyages to Hawaii Before 1860. Rev. ed. Honolulu: Hawaiian Mission Children's Society, 1974.
Z4706 .J84

Fitzpatrick, Norman. Annotated Chronological Bibliography of Voyaging Journals Referring to the Sandwich Islands Between 1786 and 1819. 1987.
Z4708 .A4 F58 1987

Forbes, David. Hawaiian National Bibliography, 1780-1900. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1999 - .
In four volumes: Vol. 1. 1780-1830 -- v. 2. 1831-1850 -- v. 3. 1851-1880 -- v. 4. 1881-1900.
Use the indexes to find writings and accounts by specific names and topic.
Z4701 .F67 1999

Early Accounts by Non-Hawaiians

The first known non-Polynesian visitor to Hawaiʻi was Captain James Cook, who arrived on the Resolution in 1778. Through the journals he and his officers kept, we have the first written accounts of Hawaiʻi. The explorers who followed Cook recorded their own journals, and added to a body of literature we now loosely refer to as "early accounts." Other contributors to the "early accounts" were the Protestant missionaries who documented their observations through diaries and correspondence.

This guide provides a bibliographic introduction to these "early accounts."

What About Hawaiians?

The very idea of "early accounts" privileges non-Hawaiian observations and recordation.

To be clear, prior to the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778 and prior to the arrival of missionaries in 1820, Hawaiian "history" was recorded by Hawaiians through formal systems of oral tradition, whereby natural and human histories, and genealogies - moʻolelo - were committed to memory and passed down from one generation to the next.

While this system posed no significant obstacle for the Polynesians whose settlement of Hawaiʻi has been traced to the 900s, i.e. the 10th century, it poses a significant obstacle for many of today's researchers. Written Hawaiian as we know it today, not to mention written English, did not exist in Hawaiʻi prior to the early 1820s.

In 1820, Protestant missionaries arrived in Hawaiʻi, and brought with them a printing press and a desire to spread the word of their god. The missionaries' educational and missionizing efforts relied on communication through the written word. Toward these ends, they devised a system of writing for the Hawaiian language, translated The Bible into Hawaiian, and introduced print publication to Hawaiʻi.

Hawaiians quickly took to writing and publishing, and over time produced an extraordinary body of written literature, a significant portion of which was produced in newspaper form. Much of this survives to this day and is available now in paper (in limited copies), in microfilm (more widely available), and online (ubiquitous).

For today's researcher, then, unless he or she has proficiency in Hawaiian, early accounts are limited to ... "early accounts."

Resituating Perspective

Subject Guide

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Dore Minatodani
Hawaiian Collection
Hamilton Library 507

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Subjects: Hawaii