Hawaii: A Century of Economic Change, 1778-1876

Hawaii: A Century of Economic Change, 1778-1876

Hawaii: A Century of Economic Change, 1778-1876

Hawaii: A Century of Economic Change, 1778-1876

Excerpt

The following study was begun at Honolulu in 1937-1938, and completed at Cambridge, Massachusetts, through work done at intervals between 1940 and 1947. The period of Hawaiian economic history which it covers can be briefly defined as that of the transition between the native feudalism and an agricultural and commercial private enterprise system. The chronological limits are defined as 1778, the date of Cook's first visit, and 1876, when the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States was signed and the framework of the present economic organization fixed.

When Captain Cook made his landfall at Kauai in 1778, he initiated a contact with western civilization which ended more than a thousand years of nearly complete isolation. Before this, the forms of social organization had evolved primarily from internal causation. Afterwards, economic and social evolution was determined by external forces--the need of fur traders bound from the northwest coast to oriental harbors for fresh provisions and water; the demand in the temples of China for sandalwood, growing unvalued on the slopes of the Island mountains; the desire of New England churches to spread the Gospel; the requirement of New England whalers (forced around the Horn by the shrinking quantity of game in the Atlantic) for safe anchorage, repairs, and provisions; and, finally, the external demand, varying with political and economic circumstance, for agricultural produce growable in the Island valleys. Each of these has risen to its noon of influence, and, save the last, has declined; and all together have bound Hawaii tightly to western civilization. They have made its development since 1778 as fully a theme of adaptation as social adjustments earlier represented effects of internal causes.

The development of Hawaii since discovery gains significance through its being representative: it is a special case of what has been going on generally in the last several centuries, as Europe has expanded upon less technically developed societies. Hawaii's smallness of size, its strategic position, and its useful resources have resulted in a more rapid and total transformation than generally occurred elsewhere; but in a number of essential ways the . . .

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