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HIST675B: History of the South Pacific (Colonialism and Imperialism in Oceania): Newspapers

A note about bias and Hawai'i newspapers

Many historic Hawai'i papers have over the last few years been made available available online, which has been a boon to researchers: Most of these papers have not been indexed in any meaningful way, so having full-text searchable pages allow for deep content searches that were formerly impossible. However, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • What is currently online is nowhere near the total output of historic newspapers in either Hawaiian or English languages, let alone other vernacular publications (Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese etc.);
  • As historians, you should always be thinking about biases in what you are reading, but when using online collections that hold multiple newspapers (like Chronicling America) you also have to be aware of biases in terms of what you are not reading: For a variety of reasons that relate to the requirements of the grant that funded this project, many of the papers on Chronicling America fall into the category that historian Helen Chapin labels "Establishment." In 19th century Hawai'i, "Establishment" papers were those that were aligned with forces that sought to overthrow the Hawaiian Monarchy. The site holds fewer of what Chapin labels "Alternative" papers, which we would today read as pro-Monarchy papers. 

If you are unsure of the biases of Hawai'i papers, you can find a searchable PDF of Chapin's categories (along with her entire Guide to Newspaper of Hawai'i: 1834-2000) here:

For a more comprehensive guide to newspapers of Hawai'i, see also:

Historic Hawai'i Newspaper Collections (Primarily English language)

Historic Hawaiian-language Newspapers

Some Notes on Translations of Hawaiian Language Newspapers

The body of Hawaiian language newspaper publishing is far to vast to have been fully translated. There are however some pockets of translation that exist:

  • Papakilo's nūpepa database includes a translation when one has been done. Click on the original article, and If there is a translation, it will appear in the left hand column, below the text of the original Hawaiian. If no translation has yet been done, the section will be empty. Here is an example (scroll down on left column). You can also use the advanced search to search for any translated texts. 
  • Papakiloʻs general database (main search bar) has some records from the Bishop Museum's Hawaiian Ethnographic Notes (HEN) index. The HEN index is historian Kawena Pukui's reference file of resources on all sorts of topics. Many of the resources in the file are translated Hawaiian language newspaper articles. Here is an example,|r:1|esg:6|tb:sg6|o:10.
  • The nūpepa blog is also an excellent resource to find translations of articles because they are organized by a variety of topics. Although the blog's author (and translator) says these are not really translations so much as interpretations of a given articles contents, reliable sources say these are quite good as translations.
  • Many modern, English-language works in the field of Hawaiian history (and related disciplines like Political Science and Literature) reference nūpepa articles in their arguments, often providing translations. Some good examples of these are Aloha BetrayedMai Paʻa I ka LeoVoices of FireSteel Tipped PenThe Kingdom and the Republic; and Reclaiming Kalakaua
  • Ke Keʻena Noʻi a Unuhi ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (the Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation) has done some grant-funded work to translate articles that relate to Sea Grant projects (like weather). 

(Credit: These notes are adapted from informal input of Hawaiian Collection librarian Kapena Shim, with gratitude for his deep knowledge on the subject)

Pacific Historic Newspapers Online

Both the Hawaiian and Pacific Collections have a great many historic newspapers, dating from the 19th century through present. Many are in microfilm, and most have not been indexed, meaning that if you're searching for a specific event, your only option may be to go to the microfilms and begin reading papers dating from the period you're interested in. However, some have been digitized, and in these cases are searchable and readable online.