Grassroot’s Stocking Stuffer Suggestions: Ring in the New Year with Some Hawaiian History

In crafting policy for the future, it is helpful to understand the past. And that may explain why we so often receive requests for book recommendations on the history of Hawaii.

This year, with the help of some of our Advisors, we put together a list of possible holiday stocking stuffers–books that may be of interest to anyone who is looking to learn more about our history and the different debates that flow from it. From general overviews to stories from some of America’s great writers to books that delve deeply into the controversy over Hawaiian nation-building, there’s something here for everyone.

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

*Note: Have you set the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii as your preferred charity on the Amazon Smiles program? If not, it’s easy. Simply log in to your Amazon account at smile.amazon.com. Go to “Change Your Charity” or “Choose Your Charity” (you may have to go to “Your Account” to make the change), and type in “Grassroot Institute of Hawaii”. Confirm that choice and then, when you make an Amazon purchase that qualifies for the Smiles program, a portion of that purchase goes to helping the Grassroot Institute continue to defend free market principles in Hawaii. It’s shopping for a good cause–what could be better?

Grassroot Institute Stocking Stuffers

Gavan Daws

Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands

Gavan Daws’ remarkable achievement is to free Hawaiian history from the dust of antiquity. Based on years of work in the documentary sources, Shoal of Time emerges as the most readable of all Hawaiian histories.

Starting with the Western discovery of the islands in 1778–on through the days of the whalers, the missionary period, the plantation era with its vast numbers of Oriental immigrants, to the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy, annexation by the United States, and the long, slow move to statehood–the characters and events of Hawaii’s past shine with new vitality and immediacy.

Abraham Fornander

Fornander’s Ancient History of the Hawaiian People to the Times of Kamehameha I

A reprint of this classic of precontact history tracing Hawaii’s saga from legendary times to the arrival of Captain Cook, including an account of his demise. Originally published as volume II in the “An Account of the Polynesian Race: Its Origins and Migration,” this historical work is made available again.


William M. Morgan, Ph.D.

Pacific Gibraltar: U.S.-Japanese Rivalry Over the Annexation of Hawaii, 1885-1898

Based a sweeping re-evaluation of new and existing sources in three countries, Pacific Gibraltar is the first detailed account in a generation of Hawaiian annexation, the initial episode of U.S. overseas imperialism. The book clarifies murky episodes in the story of annexation, such as U.S.S. Boston’s mysterious return to Honolulu just in time to land troops during the Hawaiian Revolution, President Cleveland’s failed attempt to restore Queen Lili’uokalani, and the growing threat to the white rebel government from burgeoning Japanese immigration.


Though the U.S. annexed Hawai’i during the Spanish-American War of 1898, Hawaii was not a war spoil like the Philippines. Rather annexation was an old idea. It emerged not only from ideological and economic motives but above all from a quarter century of maturing appreciation for Hawaii’s importance to defense of the west coast. When Tokyo’s push to secure voting rights for its nationals scared the white oligarchy into restricting the inflow of Japanese, triggering a nasty dispute between the two countries in early 1897, the U.S. rushed to protect the strategic isles. When Japan deployed warships to Honolulu and formally opposed annexation, even before the McKinley administration endorsed it, the U.S. completed the first war plans against Japan and authorized the Navy to use force against Japanese landing parties. The Japan-U.S. crisis of 1897 put annexation on the front burner and created the votes that would pass a joint resolution of annexation the following year.

For a detailed review by Ken Conklin (including extensive quotes), click here.


Ernest Andrade, Jr.

Unconquerable Rebel: Robert W. Wilcox and Hawaiian Politics, 1880-1903

From Amazon: “Unconquerable Rebel is an examination of Hawaiian History from 1880-1904 and the political career of part-Hawaiian, Robert W. Wilcox.”


From Dr. Ken Conklin: This book is a fair, balanced, and heavily documented description of both the political activities of Robert W. Wilcox, and the tumultuous events in Hawaii, from 1880 to 1903. Andrade uses the word “demagogue” to describe Wilcox’s flamboyant style. Andrade describes Wilcox as an arrogant, unprincipled zealot who frequently changed sides in the political struggles and whose only long-term allegiance was to his own quest for political power. Wilcox, who was half white and half Hawaiian, deliberately stirred up racial antagonism by Hawaiians against whites in order to build political support for himself. Wilcox collaborated with Lili’uokalani in a plot against Kalakaua; opposed Lili’uokalani while she was Queen; urged that the monarchy be overthrown in favor of a Republic; and supported annexation to the United States. But after the revolution he worked to restore the monarchy and opposed annexation. Wilcox led armed rebellions resulting in several deaths, including an attempted Palace coup in 1889 and an attempted counter-revolution in 1895. When annexation was achieved, Wilcox maneuvered to become leader of the race-focused Home Rule Party and won election as Hawaii’s first Territorial Delegate to Congress. But his performance in Congress was so poor, and the Home Rule’s performance as majority party in the Territorial legislature was so bad, that the party split into factions and soon ceased to exist. Prince Kuhio walked out of the Home Rule Party convention in 1902 in disgust, joined the Republican Party, and won election as Territorial Delegate where he served for 20 years. Aside from information about Wilcox, this book is especially valuable because of detailed objective information about political and diplomatic events related to the Constitution of 1887 (Bayonet Constitution), the revolution of 1893, and annexation; including analysis of the biased nature of the Blount Report and the role of President Grover Cleveland in opposing annexation and seeking to restore Lili’uokalani to the throne. The dust jacket says “Ernest Andrade, Jr. is a retired professor of history from the University of Colorado – Denver. He was born in Hawaii and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Hawaii. His teaching was primarily in U.S. diplomatic and naval history, but he has always remained deeply interested in the history of his native islands.”

For a detailed book review by Ken Conklin (including extensive quotes) click here.


Mark Twain

Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii in the 1860’s

Amazon Reader Review: The Hawaii of Twain’s time – essentially a third world American colony – offers plenty of cultural and historical novelties for him to observe and comment on. Mark Twain spent several months in Hawaii as a correspondent for a California newspaper in 1872. The thirteen chapters of this books describe Twain’s travels around the Hawaiian islands during that time, and his experiences interacting with residents and trying local foods and other customs. I found myself chuckling out loud sometimes, as the famous Twainsian humor manifested itself in descriptions of obstinate horses, shrewd intuitions about Hawaiian politics, and sarcastic comments about religion. Mark Twain is justly lauded for his comedic talents, but his deep intelligence and understanding of human society also shine through in every chapter. As a result, this book is an enjoyable insight into not just one of the America’s literary giants, but also a comprehensive portrait of the Hawaii of the 1870s.


Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii

“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I had a jolly time. I would not have fooled away any of it writing letters under any consideration whatever.” –Mark Twain


So Samuel Langhorne Clemens made his excuse for late copy to the Sacramento Union, the newspaper that was underwriting his 1866 trip. If the young reporter’s excuse makes perfect sense to you, join the thousands of Island lovers who have delighted in Twain’s efforts when he finally did put pen to paper.


Jack London

Stories of Hawaii (Tales of the Pacific)

Amazon Reader Review: “You cannot escape liking the climate….And I warn you, if you have some spot dear to you on earth, not to linger here too long, else you will find this dearer.”


From The Sheriff of Kona


This is a terrific collection of short stories set in the Hawaiian Islands in the early years of the 20th century. London’s stories are set pieces that capture a very specific time in the Hawaiian Islands, after the end of the monarchy and during the early years of American annexation. He writes with a vigor and directness that makes his stories engaging, enjoyable reading and his mastery of the short story structure is first rate.


I have one warning for modern readers with political or racial sensitivities, though. As a man of his time, London writes with a gentle but obvious racism that reflects his world view (and the common views of the era). People’s characters are determined by their race, and race is often used as a shorthand stereotype to describe individuals. If seeing simple, sensual, superstitious Hawaiians, wily Asians, and rational, greedy (often heavy drinking) whites, you should avoid this book. It’s never mean-spirited, but it is pervasive.


For those of us who appreciate good stories that capture a unique time and place and who are not offended by anachronistic views on race, these stories are real gems. I think they are better than most of London’s more famous stories, myself.


Thurston Twigg-Smith

Hawaiian Sovereignty:  Do the Facts Matter?

In this book, Thurston Twigg-Smith presents facts about Hawaiian history which may not be politically correct, but are valid and should be included in the political debate surrounding Hawaiian issues.  Twigg-Smith’s grandfather, Lorrin A. Thurston, was one of the architects of the Hawaiian Revolution of 1893, and his great-great-grandparents, Asa and Lucy Thurston, were in the first company of missionaries to arrive in Hawai‘i. Twigg-Smith, who published The Honolulu Advertiser until 1993, was the first of his family to amass any fortune. He has used it generously, both in and out of Hawai‘i, supporting charitable, cultural and artistic endeavors.

The book is now out of print, but several years ago, Thurston Twigg-Smith gave Ken Conklin permission to put a pdf of the book here on his website for anyone to download free of charge.


Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.

Hawaiian Apartheid:  Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State

The Hawaii legislature has empowered OHA, a state government agency, to compile a racial registry of “Native Hawaiians” to set up a new government for a state-recognized Hawaiian tribe.  The Akaka bill, in Congress from 2000 through 2012, would have given federal recognition to Native Hawaiians as an Indian tribe.  The U.S. Department of Interior is working to create a new rule to help the Hawaiian tribe get federal recognition as a full-fledged Indian tribe, by executive order without Congress.  There are already more than 850 racial entitlement programs exclusively for Native Hawaiians, which the tribal concept is intended to protect against legal challenges.  Meanwhile OHA sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him whether Hawaii remains the sovereign independent Kingdom from the 19th Century.  This book identifies the dangers of racial separatism and ethnic nationalism; and analyzes the historic, legal, and moral issues involved in protecting the political unity of Hawaii and racial equality under the law.

A photo of the cover; the detailed table of contents; the complete Chapter 1, and how to order the book direct from the publisher, can be found here.


And finally…

Though it’s not about Hawaiian history, any Grassroot member who hasn’t read it already is sure to enjoy this classic work by one of our Scholars:

Ken Schoolland

The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey

Challenges readers to think about why some countries are rich, while others are poor and explores alternative thinking about important economic, practical, and philosophical matters.


Amazon Reader Review: This is a wonderful young-adult literature book on free-market economics and the inherent problem of things like publicly owned land, eminent domain, welfare, the drug problem, the one major weakness of pure democracy and other such things. Part of what makes it such a delight is that there are references to many great economic ideas and thinkers such as Ludwig Von Mises (the cat, Mices), who had been many brands of socialism before becoming one of the greatest economists ever, Frederic Bastiat’s candlemen’s petition, Murray Rothbard (the Great Bard), etc. Using small little stories, the book illustrates the inherent conflict over many government programs and regulations and how they also benefit either special interests or bureaucrats in particular. This is a great way to get interested in economics as a whole and alsw the libertarian movement as well.


Subscribe to our free newsletter!

Get updates on what we're doing to make Hawaii affordable for everyone.
Want more?

Get content like this delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll also send updates on what we’re doing to make Hawaii affordable for everyone.

Recent Posts