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Surveying the Mahele: Mapping the Hawaiian Land Revolution

Riley Moore Moffat

Hardcover, 120 pp.

Modern Hawaiian history has an antecedent in a single historic episode, the mahele. In the 1840s, Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) abandoned traditional Hawaiian land tenure and adopted the Western concept of private ownership of property.

Surveying the Mahele reveals how the complex disciplines of mapping and surveying, which reflect values of feudal European society that underlie modern concepts of land ownership, changed the destiny of Hawai'i. The book is lavishly illustrated with examples of mahele land surveys that range in scope from single home sites to a plat of one hundred thousand acres.

In the matter of a few years, Hawai'i changed from a society in which the ali'iʻaimoku, or king, served as steward of the land that belonged to the gods, to one in which he, the ali'i, or nobility, and the makaʻāinana, or com¬moners, acquired outright ownership of land.

Surveying the Mahele examines the work of the few professional surveyors, such as William Webster, whose work in Hawai'i was as fine as any in the world. It describes the efforts of missionaries John Emerson and William Patterson Alexander, who used their surveying skills to help their parishioners acquire land under the new laws passed as part of the mahele.

Volume II also presents the work of notable Hawaiians, such as Samuel P. Kalama and John W. Makalena, who learned surveying from missionary teachers and applied their art during the Mahele.

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