Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure

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Overview

First colonized around 200 A.D. by intrepid Polynesian islanders, Hawaii existed for hundreds of years in splendid isolation. Foreigners did not visit the islands until 1788, when Captain Cook, looking for the fabled Northwest Passage, stumbled upon this nation with its own belief system and culture. Three decades later, fourteen Calvinist missionaries left Boston bound for Hawaii, and when they arrived they converted the royal family to Christianity, and set up missionary ...

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Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure

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Overview

First colonized around 200 A.D. by intrepid Polynesian islanders, Hawaii existed for hundreds of years in splendid isolation. Foreigners did not visit the islands until 1788, when Captain Cook, looking for the fabled Northwest Passage, stumbled upon this nation with its own belief system and culture. Three decades later, fourteen Calvinist missionaries left Boston bound for Hawaii, and when they arrived they converted the royal family to Christianity, and set up missionary schools where English was taught.

A thriving monarchy had ruled over Hawaii for generations. Taro fields and fish ponds had long sustained native Hawaiians but sugar plantations had been gradually subsuming them. This fractured, vulnerable Hawaii was the country that Queen Lili‘uokalani, or Lili‘u, inherited when she came to power at the end of the nineteenth century. Her predecessor had signed away many of the monarchy’s rights, but while Lili‘u was trying to put into place a constitution that would reinstate them, other factions were plotting annexation. With the help of the American envoy, the USS Boston steamed into Honolulu harbor, and Marines landed and marched to the palace, inciting the Queen’s overthrow.

The annexation of Hawaii was extremely controversial; the issue caused heated debates in the Senate and President Cleveland gave a strongly worded speech opposing it. This was the first time America had reached beyond the borders of the continental U.S. in an act of imperialism. It was not until President McKinley was elected and the Spanish-American War erupted, that Hawaii became a critical strategic asset, and annexation finally passed Congress in 1898.

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Editorial Reviews

Malia Boyd
From the outset, Siler faces certain credibility issues: she is nonnative and nonlocal. She is also working with a language—Hawaiian—that is highly nuanced, often making accurate translations difficult to come by. Yet her book is richly and diversely sourced, and she's able to color in many figures who had heretofore existed largely in outline or black and white…[Lost Kingdom] is a solidly researched account of an important chapter in our national history, one that most Americans don't know but should. It will probably provoke missionary descendants and native Hawaiians alike, which is praise in itself.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller

“A sweeping tale of tragedy, greed, betrayal, and imperialism… The depth of her research shines through the narrative, and the lush prose and quick pace make for engaging reading… absorbing.” —Library Journal (Starred review)

“Richly…sourced… [Siler is] able to color in many figures who had heretofore existed largely in outline or black and white… a solidly researched account of an important chapter in our national history, one that most Americans don’t know but should… an 1893 New York Times headline called [the annexation] ‘the political crime of the century.’” —The New York Times Book Review

“Julia Flynn Siler's Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure is a well-told history of the U.S. acquisition of Hawaii. The central figure is Lili'uokalani, who had the misfortune of being queen when Uncle Sam closed his grasp on the islands.” —The Seattle Times

““[A] well-researched, nicely contextualized history . . . It was indeed, as Siler characterizes it, ‘one of the most audacious land grabs of the Gilded Age.’” —LA Times

“[Julia Flynn] Siler captures… what Hawaii was then and what it has evolved into today. What happened to the islands is known as one of the most aggressive takeovers of the Gilded Age… Siler gives us a riveting and intimate look at the rise and tragic fall of Hawaii's royal family… [It] is a reminder that Hawaii remains one of the most breathtaking places in the world. Even if the kingdom is lost.” –Fortune

“Siler rehearses the dark imperial history of how Americans first arrived in the islands, how they rose in power and how they deposed the queen and took everything… This is mostly the story of white entrepreneurs and missionaries who came and conquered… A well-rendered narrative of paradise and imperialism.” —Kirkus Review

“This imperial land grab in our not so distant past is far too little known. I hope that Julia Flynn Siler’s lively, moving, colorful account will help restore it to the place in our national memory where it ought to be.” —Adam Hochschild, author of To End all Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 and Kings Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

“Only one American state was formally a sovereign monarchy. In this compelling narrative, the award-winning journalist Julia Flynn Siler chronicles how this Pacific kingdom, creation of a proud Polynesian people, was encountered, annexed, and absorbed.” —Kevin Starr, Historian, University of Southern California, and author of California: A History

“Siler… skillfully weaves the tangled threads of this story into a satisfying tapestry about the late 19th-century death of a small nation [with]… sympathetic detail.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“The takeover of Hawaii is a disturbing and dramatic story, deftly captured by Julia Flynn Siler … [S]he vividly depicts a cast of characters driven by greed, desperation, and miscalculation… How the queen lost her kingdom says as much about America and its new era of overseas expansion as it does about Hawaii.”
—T.J. Stiles, author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelious Vanderbilt, winner of the Pulitzer Price and National Book Award

“Julia Flynn Siler’s Lost Hawaii is a riveting saga about Big Sugar flexing its imperialist muscle… Its impossible not to be impressed with the breadth of Silers fine scholarship. A real gem of a book.” — Douglas Brinkley, author of The Quiet World: Saving Alaskas Wilderness Kingdom 1879-1960

“Too many Americans forget… our 'island paradise' was acquired via a cynical, imperious land grab… By the 1890s, American businessmen, especially the “sugar kings,” dominated the Hawaiian economy… [C]ombined with the flowering of American naval ambitions, Hawaii’s status as an independent kingdom was doomed. Siler’s narrative concentrates on the efforts of Queen Lili’okalani to stave off American annexation. The missionary-educated [queen’s] efforts to straddle both the modern and traditional Hawaiian worlds proved futile. This is a well-written, fast-moving saga.” —Booklist

Library Journal
In Siler's second book (after The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty), she brings to life the story of America's annexation of the sovereign Hawaiian Islands. She begins when Christian missionaries from Boston landed on Hawaii in 1820—when Western powers truly began to influence Hawaiian affairs—and follows the birth and life of Lili'uokalani, the woman who would become the last queen of Hawaii. American sugar planters, the self-styled Sugar Kings, slowly took over most of the arable land on the islands, while Lili'uokalani's elder brother King David Kala¯kaua became deeply indebted to them. He eventually sought a loan from England to pay off the Sugar Kings. Several countries, including America, England, and France, looked to the Pacific for colonial expansion and became embroiled in the controversies in Hawaii until American forces deposed Lili'uokalani against the will of the vast majority of native Hawaiians. VERDICT Siler gives readers a sweeping tale of tragedy, greed, betrayal, and imperialism. The depth of her research shines through the narrative, and the lush prose and quick pace make for engaging reading. Anyone interested in Hawaiian history or American imperialism will find this an absorbing read. [See Prepub Alert, 7/10/11.]—Crystal Goldman, San Jose State Univ. Lib., CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455849581
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 1/15/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Flynn Siler is an award-winning journalist. Her book, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty was a New York Times bestseller. She has written for Business Week and The New York Times, and is now a contributing writer for The Wall Street Journal in San Francisco. She lives in Northern California with her husband and sons.
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Read an Excerpt

The queen was back at the palace, just a few blocks from Honolulu Harbor, having been rebuffed two days earlier in her attempt to introduce a new constitution. Hearing the beat of the American military drums, she stepped onto the veranda and watched from above as the troops marched from the harbor. As they kicked up dust in the unpaved streets, she could see they were heavily weighed down with double belts of cartridges. The sun sank and the skies over Honolulu darkened. The blue-jacketed sailors approached the palace.

Beneath the town’s newly installed electric streetlamps, Lili‘uokalani could see them pushing a revolving cannon and a fearsome Gatling gun that could rip through a large crowd. Following their movements in the streets, she felt fear. Why had the troops landed when everything seemed at peace? The air was heavy with the scent of gardenias. Mosquitoes were drawn to the sweat of the blue-jacketed sailors. As the troops marched past the palace grounds, accompanied by drum rolls, they hoisted their rifles to their shoulders and seemed to point them in the queen’s direction.

Were their weapons drawn and ready to fire, as Lili‘uokalani later recalled? Or were they merely signaling their respect for Hawai‘i’s queen by marching past and beating the drums in a royal salute, as one of their commanding officers later insisted? Whatever their intention, this brash display of military power ignited a crisis that would change the course of American history.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(6)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012

    Informative, a good read!

    As a Hawaii born native hawaiian living on the mainland I was intrigued to see this new book. I bought it for my nook, and had to force myself to put it down. I was raised on the stories of the illegal overthrow of the monarchy, and the conflicts that followed. In my family the monarchy was always the good guy, but as usual when you delve more deeply into history, you find that they also contributed to their downfall. I enjoyed reading about the differant characters, and seeing their strenghts, and weaknesses.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 28, 2012

    Annoying typos ruin a good read.

    A great read that was hard to put down, with the exception of the very annoying question marks (?) that appear throughout many of the Hawaiian names an words. Is this just and early Nook edition issue? Paid too much money to have this annoyance in an otherwise good book, and lowers my rating by at least one star.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 12, 2012

    This is an A+ piece of work. It is well researched, thorough, bu

    This is an A+ piece of work. It is well researched, thorough, but also easy to read. In reference to the ? that appear in the Hawaiian names on the nook version, they can be eliminated by changing the font type in the nook settings.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    Powerful true story!

    A very detailed, heartbreaking tale about the ending of Old Hawaii and its traditional chief system, at the treacherous hands of the United States. At times, the writing was textbook like but the emotional nature of the situation prevailed....and tears were always close to the surface. A must read!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Poyo

    No poyo. *the penguin with its wizard hat on studies alex* penguin poyo.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Danny

    My place is nect result

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2012

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    Posted March 3, 2012

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    Posted April 30, 2012

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    Posted January 9, 2012

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    Posted October 26, 2012

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    Posted May 4, 2012

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