For help with the research for this article, thanks to the staffs at the Hawaii State Archives, the Hawaiian Historical Society, the Department of Special Collections at UCLA's Young Research Library, and the UCLA Law Library. For advice on earlier drafts, thanks to Russell Korobkin, Bert Kritzer, Carol Rose, Clyde Spillenger, Steve Yeazell, and the six anonymous reviewers.
Preparing to Be Colonized: Land Tenure and Legal Strategy in Nineteenth-Century Hawaii
Version of Record online: 24 MAY 2005
Law & Society Review
Volume 39, Issue 2, pages 273–314, June 2005
How to Cite
Banner, S. (2005), Preparing to Be Colonized: Land Tenure and Legal Strategy in Nineteenth-Century Hawaii. Law & Society Review, 39: 273–314. doi: 10.1111/j.0023-9216.2005.00083.x
- Issue online: 24 MAY 2005
- Version of Record online: 24 MAY 2005
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, throughout the Pacific Rim, European and American colonizers reorganized indigenous systems of property rights in land to make them look more like European property systems, with disastrous effects for the indigenous people involved. The very first of these schemes, however, was the Māhele of 1845–1855, which took place not in a colony but in the independent Kingdom of Hawaii. Why did the Hawaiians do this to themselves? I argue that the Māhele was a sophisticated and partially successful response to the prospect that Hawaii would soon be colonized. The object of the Māhele was to ensure that in the event of annexation, Kamehameha III and other elite Hawaiians would not be dispossessed of their landholdings. The strategy was to convert those landholdings into a legal form that would be recognized by an incoming colonial government—whether American, British, or French—as private property.