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Reviewed by:
  • The Diaries of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, 1885–1900 ed. by David W. Forbes
  • Ronald Williams Jr., Ph.D.
The Diaries of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, 1885–1900. Edited and with Annotations by David W. Forbes. Honolulu: Hui Hānai, 2019. xxxvii + 538 pp. Bibliography. Notes. Illustrated. Index. $40.00 cloth

There can be little argument that the editor of this text—over the past several decades of in-person archival research—has seen, read, and transcribed more material related to Hawai'i and its history that anyone else of our time and likely of the past century. His bibliographic and editorial work has produced canonical texts that have benefited countless researchers and delivered a greater understanding of Hawai'i's past to all. His four-volume Hawaiian National Bibliography stands out as an authoritative first stop for any historian on the trail of an elusive document or looking to broaden their research of a given topic. With his latest project, The Diaries of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, 1885–1900, Forbes delivers another significant historical resource.

Publication of the diaries of the last reigning sovereign of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Her Majesty Queen Lili'uokalani, adds significant content to the study of a life that still yet remains relatively under-explored and misunderstood. In a beautifully designed and illustrated book of over 500 pages, diary entries of the Queen are interspersed with annotations from the editor that offer further information about the many people, places, and events named within the diaries. Footnotes add biographical information to names mentioned in the original text. While these editorial insertions are a common, accepted method of delivering further content and context to the reader, they do mark places of outside authorship within an otherwise straightforward delivery of the subject's voice. [End Page 179]

Issues of historiography in Hawai'i have taken center stage as a clear understanding of the past broad elision of Native voice propels demands for more inclusive histories. A prolific archive of Hawaiian-language writing—more than 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers and likely an equal amount of government documents, private correspondence, and publications—is now being accessed by a growing number of scholars literate in the 'ōlelo makuahine (mother tongue) of these Islands. They are producing more inclusive, complex histories that often challenge long-entrenched master narratives of Hawai'i and its people. These important methodological shifts underway are not only about the inclusion of Native-language sources. In her brilliant biography of the Hawaiian statesman, John Papa 'Ī'ī, Facing The Spears of Change, Marie Alohalani Brown casts a paradigm that reaches beyond the mere use of Native-language sources and towards a cultural literacy that properly contextualizes and defines the sources gathered.11 The absence of both of these tools within this text is problematic.

The Diaries of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, 1885–1900 contains significant annotations and over a thousand footnotes that offer Hawaiian history from the sole perspective of English-language sources. The reign of Her Majesty Queen Lili'uokalani was one of the most significant inflection points in Hawaiian history and voices of the period engaged in polemic rhetorical battles in attempts to influence the public both domestically and abroad. Time and again the text offers a window into this period through the eyes of the opposition English-language press. One of the most quoted sources among the book's annotations is the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, a newspaper purchased in May 1888 by William Richards Castle (a staunch opponent of the monarchy and a central member of the Committee of Safety that overthrew the Queen on January 17, 1893).

An insertion following the Queen's July 6, 1898 diary entry offers an important note that this was the date of the passing of the annexation resolution in the U.S. Congress. The annotation goes on to platform the response of the Pacific Commercial Advertsier in its July 14 headline: "Annexation! Here to Stay!" Responses to these events that led to the loss of their nation from the Native-language press such as "Lawe Lima Nui o Amerika I Na Paemoku O Hawaii," "Me ka Ae Ole o ka Poe Nona ka Aina," and...


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pp. 179-181
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