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Queen Kaʻahumanu of Hawaii: A Biography

King Kamehameha the Great had 30 wives. Ka'ahumanu (c.1768-1832) was his favorite. Descended from Oceanian voyagers, she grew up in a society completely isolated from the rest of the world, her life enmeshed in dynastic wars and constrained by an elaborate system of taboos. In 1778, she was shocked by the arrival of alien ships, followed by an influx of foreigners. In their wake came devastating epidemics. Seizing power after the King's death, Ka'ahumanu overturned those taboos and guided her nation through revolutionary change, crucial to the Hawaiian Islands' unification. Through sicknesses, romances, infidelities, murders, rebellions, pardons, travels, missionary work, and more, her story challenges many beliefs about American history, Christianity, and gender. Further, it has implications for current debates about immigration, sexuality, and religious diversity. Drawing on seldom-analyzed French and Russian sources, this biography covers neglected aspects of Ka'ahumanu's life. The many spouses and lovers she and Kamehameha had, the roles played by Central Europeans, African-Americans, Catholics and Unitarians in her realm, and struggles with religious pluralism are all included.

Thomas Goodhue

Softcover, 232 pp.


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