Hawaii, known to Westerners in the Second Decade as “the Sandwich Islands,” was a rich and vibrant place, and the 1810s were arguably the most exciting time in its history. In 1810 Kamehameha, a nobleman from the Big Island, completed his 30-year struggle to unify Hawaii under his own rule, initiating an era of somewhat fragile peace. But there were fractures beneath the surface of Hawaiian society which led to a cultural and religious upheaval in 1819—at the exact same time that a group of ambitious New England evangelicals were, for unrelated reasons, preparing to settle in Hawaii and establish Christian missions.
Sean Munger sets the stage for the story of this cultural collision by exploring both the background and context of the American missionaries who arrived at the end of the decade, and the rapidly changing country of Hawaii in which they suddenly found themselves. In this episode you’ll not only meet Kamehameha, his arch-rival Kaumuali’i and his unlucky rum-guzzling advisor Isaac Davis, but also the bewildered royal heir Liholiho, the ambitious feminist Ka’ahumanu, a reluctant bride named Lucy Goodale, a vomiting clergyman called Hiram Bingham, and the famous Henry Obookiah, whose round-trip from Hawaii to Connecticut and back took an astonishing 186 years.
(Background music for this episode licensed CC3.0 by Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston).