Captive Paradise: A History of Hawai’i

Written by James L. Haley
Review by Eva Ulett

Captive Paradise presents a history of Hawai’i from the time of contact with Europeans via the famous voyage of Captain Cook, to a forcible and even discreditable annexation by the United States of America in 1898. Events during the 20th century, including the development of Pearl Harbor as a strategic naval base and Hawai‛i’s admission to USA statehood in 1959, are briefly examined. The narrative principally follows the fortunes of the ruling class, the royals or ali‘i of Hawai‘i, beginning with the Conqueror, Kamehameha I.

The history of the royals of Hawai‘i is as fascinating as the more celebrated Tudors of England. The ali‘i intermarried, brothers and sisters and half-siblings, in order to preserve power within their class and clans. Author Haley suggests that inbreeding might have accounted for “the fact that no Kamehameha after the Conqueror sired any (legitimate) children who lived to adulthood.” Kamehameha’s heir Liholiho, and the Conqueror’s favored wife, the forceful and shrewd Ka‘ahumanu, ended the indigenous kapu system after his death. Christianity was poised to replace the old ways.

This is an insightful overview of the interactions of the kings and queens of Hawai‘i, first with American missionaries, and eventually with all the world economic powers.