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Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands
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Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  435 ratings  ·  58 reviews
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.
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 1st 1974 by University of Hawaii Press (first published January 1st 1968)
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  435 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book is widely considered to be the definitive text when it comes to the modern history of Hawai'i. Certainly, no other text attempts to take on such a broad swathe of history in such detail. If you're interested in the history of Hawai'i and/or the imperialist history of the U.S. in the Pacific, Shoal of Time is a must read. However, beware, I found that the book has some pretty big flaws.

First of all, every historical account can only be told from the perspective of the historian who tell
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 star review.

If you want to gain insight into the extraordinary human diversity of Hawaii, this is a fantastic read. This one volume history, now 40 years old, covers Hawaii from Captain Cook’s arrival to Barack Obama’s birth.

I found the book to be highly informative and very well written. Because it covers so much, the stories are at best vignettes but there are so many nationalities represented in Hawaii’s history that it is absorbing.

The middle to latter portions of the book are well doc
Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it
"Shoal of Time" is an "ok" introduction to Hawaiian history, thorough in some areas, but glaringly thin and/or dated in others. Only recommended for background reading as part of a broader palette of histories, texts and cultural texts offering differing viewpoints.

Other books and historical texts that I recommend for a more complete cultural and historical view include:
"The Voices of Eden"
All Volumes of "The Hawaiian Journal of History" (Hawaiian Historical Society)
"For Whom the Stars"
"Must We
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Hands-down the best one-volume political history of modern Hawaii ever written. It's difficult to write a history of the islands since Captain Cook's arrival through US annexation and statehood without "taking sides" in the struggle between the natives and haoles - and the book's point of view definitely does have its clear heroes and villains - but Daws makes an honest effort to provide context for all the warring factions in the book and avoids turning it into a one-sided screed as it could ha ...more
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
After living in Hawaii for 4 years, I got sick of not being able to answer questions from friends and family about the history of the islands. I was looking for a readable book that would take me from Captain Cook to statehood, which is exactly what Daws has written.

When I was looking for books, a found a few reviews of this volume that said it was biased against Native Hawaiians, so I was cautious when I started reading. After getting through a few chapters, I realized that the problem is not t
Terry Brooks
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shoal is the history of the Kings of Hawaii from Kamehameha 1 to the end of the monarchy in the late 1900s. The story is true, but the events are incredible and compelling. How the Hawaiian Islands were discovered and eventually subverted by the US and the European powers makes for great storytelling.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
it took me ages to finish this, but at least i didn't take a whole year (yikes)
I am truly amazed this book even exists to be honest - and I'm sure the copies of it are rare, so it's even more incredible I had the chance to read it at all.

The writing is deeply moving for me, a perfect blend of humor and striking truth that exposes the beauty and brutality of Hawaiian history in a way I would never have expected.
It's a shame it was published in 1974, since I'd love to know more contemporary hist
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: hawaii, nonfiction
This might be the original "comprehensive" history of Hawaii, but boy is it a dull and tedious read. I did appreciate how much ground Daws tries to cover, as many other Hawaiian histories focus on the short-lived monarchy and the period of annexation, whereas he covers the pre-Captain Cook era through the granting of statehood post-WWII. However, his monotonous litany of facts, unbroken by nary an interesting anecdote, made it difficult to absorb the information or concentrate on the text for lo ...more
David Bjelland
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Considering that I was born there, my mom's side of the family has lived there for multiple generations, and I have a Hawaiian middle name, I can't help but feel shamefully overdue in finally seeking out a substantial history of the place, and this book happened to present itself the last time I was back at my parent's house and browsing around for something to read (it was a gift to my Mom from her librarian at Punahou, when the book was still fairly new).

It's one thing not to be curious for s
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Damn that was a long book. I enjoyed the ancient history the most as that is where my interests are. Even still it is useful to have read this book as a way of understanding Hawaiian culture today and much of the animosity directed at Haoles.
Beth Cato
May 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shoal of Time may be tedious at times, but it's also incredibly comprehensive and fascinating. It took me weeks to make it through this book, and in the process, I created dozens of bookmarks for research purposes. The approach of the book feels very fair in its treatment of haoles (whites), native Hawaiians, and the islands' history of misunderstanding, racism, and political corruption. It goes into detail on the first arrivals of foreigners, to Kamehameha, to the takeover of haoles and sugar c ...more
Luke Peterson
Feb 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who visits Hawaii
I bought this book back in 2004 while I was in Honolulu, laid up with terrible sunburn.

It is THE book on Hawaiian history since their "discovery", tracing the political and cultural history of the islands from their first western contact to the modern day.

If flying to Honolulu from the east coast, you're going to be on a plane for 12 hours and you'll likely be wide awake. Read this book, your tour guides aren't that complicated. Also, for terrific and cheap surfing lessons anywhere on Oahu, cal
Andrea Pulaski
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Don't read this if you are white and want to enjoy Hawaii. It may very well take all the joy out of it for you. Very well chronicled and very acurate. There is a byast against the white man, (for good reason.) Written by an Australian used as a Text book in Hawaiian History classes today but reads like a novel.
Steven Kent
Feb 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Gavan Daws knows his Hawaiian history and he knows how to write. Shoal of Time is a mesmerizing survey of Hawaiian history from the days of Kamehameha to the modern era.

This is not the most detailed look at Hawaiian history, but it is a reader-friendly introduction to a long and fascinating tale.
Dan McCarthy
Mar 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
It was mostly a political history of Hawaii. Information I am glad I now know, but not very entertaining.
Mar 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Dated but, in its day, simply the best introduction to the sald bowl in the Islands.
Philip Waikoloa
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Too politically-focused. Not a good look at the Hawaiian people and culture.
Eduardo Santiago
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested not just the history of Hawaii but the context that has given rise to today's USA
What an infuriating book. We humans can be so vile.

Daws gives us a human-centered history of the Hawaiian islands: page one is Captain Cook. Do not expect geology or prehistory here; in fact not even geography—there’s not a single map in the book, requiring me to refer to online sources frequently just to avoid getting too lost. Daws does well to narrow his focus: merely between 1778 and 1959 there’s enough material to, um, oh yeah there’s a saying about that.

A side note: can one call it a histo
Aline Laforge
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A must read, recommended to me by my Lomilomi teacher. Don't base your sole knowledge of Hawaiʻi on Michener's rambling tome. I think a Hawaiʻian might say, 'Go to the source and sip from that spring.' This book can give you insight into the consequences of island history that has ripped resources from the land and the land away from the indigenous people. It is not presented as if their own Aliʻi and Monarchs had no faults, but you can see how Mainland thoughts of the islands are still based on ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, ebook
I started this before out trip to Hawaii this year, as I wanted to learn more about the islands. This was the book mentioned again and again as the best history of the natives and colonization. The first two chapters, on Captain Cook and King Kamehameha, were very interesting, But I got bogged down in the detail and the political intrigue of the arrival of more Europeans on the 1820s/1830s. For a casual reader, I think this is the type of thing best read in chunks, interspersing other things alo ...more
Paul Lunger
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
With "Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Island", Gavan Daws gives us one of the most comprehensive histories of the Hawaiian islands from the early days of exploration of them all the way up to their eventual statehood in 1959. The book itself is a fascinating read especially since the history of this state isn't really all that well known & at times is a bit disturbing to see all of the turmoil in the state's history along w/ the US's fascination with the island chain which seemingly ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a post-colonial history of Hawaii, and a very traditional history in its focus on the political intrigue and economic development. Very little about the native Hawaiian experience (a few halfhearted mentions of epidemics around halfway through), nothing about the environmental impact of colonization, but an acceptable (for me) acknowledgement of the poison of American racism. A good primer.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best history of Hawai'i to 1900 that exists. My dad, a high school teacher, used this book in his Hawai'ian history class and we had a copy at home at I read over and over again.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent history of Hawaii, even fifty years after publication. And sobering in its description of the long reach of racism in the islands’ history.
Ian Coupar
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"All this, of course, only throws the question of Cook's death into the wider arena of chance, but perhaps that is where it belongs. The probabilities were not altogether favorable that any Englishman of the eighteenth century would live to be fifty years of ages, much less a man who between the ages of forty and fifty traveled scores of thousands of miles at sea, traversing the oceans from antarctic to arctic and going ashore in innumerable strange places peopled by savages." (28)

"So it might b
Feb 17, 2017 added it
I enjoyed using this book as a reference when in my sociology class. I married into the Hawaiian race and have made it 'part of my home' with the birth of each of my four daughters. I will continue to read the reviews as they seem so accurate. My study of Hawaii is short but I find it fascinating and hope to take measures to learn more of Daws and others who have expended a good amount of time in the name of leverage for Hawaii and its people.
Matthew Sutton
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the only book on Hawaiian history I've read so I can't compare it to other similar works.

However I can't imagine a better one-volume survey that covers over a century and a half of history into less than 400 pages and does it with as much detail as this. It's a very readable account that touches on a vast array of sub histories and historical events worth going deeper into. It's also a rather breathless sprint despite the level of detail Daws manages to pack in.

Daws covers Cook's sight
Steven Yenzer
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
A solid introduction to the history of Hawaii, but it is very slow-going. My reading may have suffered by comparison with Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63, which I had just finished before picking up Shoal of Time. But Parting the Waters is triple the length and took me half the time to finish.

Shoal of Time wanders, and Daws is not good at contextualizing events and, particularly, people. He'll suddenly drop in a paragraph-long list of
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chills by the end

This book was slightly tedious at times but overall I must say, is an excellent review of the history of Hawaii from its origin to early statehood. At the age of nearly 60, I was blessed withe the opportunity to visit Hawaii for the first time in late February 2016. The history provided in these pages has enriched my plentiful and pleasurable memories of our visit. The author's conclusion brings renewed hope for me to our present political scene. Hawaii is a prime example of man
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“Lucky come Hawai‘i.” History” 1 likes
“The tides run, the sun sets, the night passes, and in the morning, just at dawn, the islands come into view again as they did for Cook so long ago, a fresher green breast of the new world than ever the old Atlantic sailors saw, and still a place of gentle, beckoning beauty.” 1 likes
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