The history from 1700-1898 marked the first contact with the western world. Captain James Cook’s arrival on Kauai in 1778 is the first recorded arrival of Europeans in Hawaii.
In the late 1700’s, Hawaii had become a port of call for many U.S. traders sailing between North America and China. A lucrative trade of supplying sandalwood to China, silks and porcelain to New England, and weapons and supplies to Hawaii was established.
Due to the overharvesting of the sandalwood trees, by the early 1820’s, the forests had largely disappeared. The Hawaiian agricultural system was largely gone and many chiefs found themselves in debt to foreign merchants.
After the death of Kamehameah in 1819, power passed to one of his wives, Kaahumanu, after his son, Liholiho, was reluctant to govern. Kaahumanu quickly put an end to the “kapu”, or taboos, that had been established for over 600 years. With temple-smashing and idol-burning, the old religion was cast aside.
The timely arrival of Christian missionaries from Boston in 1820, began an era of Christian worship and the start of a written Hawaiian language.
A few years after the missionaries arrival, whalers began calling on Hawaiian ports. From 1825 to 1870, Hawaii was an important stop-over for whalers in the Pacific. With up to 600 ships per year arriving, Lahaina and Honolulu were filled with shops, saloons, brothels and hotels.
The children of the missionaries established businesses supplying these whale ships.
By the early 1870’s, with whaling grounds becoming depleted and whale oil prices losing out against less expensive petroleum products, the whaling boom was over.
Beginning in 1835, for nearly 100 years, sugarcane and sugar sales to the U.S. were one of the mainstays of Hawaiian economy. By this time, the same American business elite owned a large amount of land in Hawaii and profited from sales of sugar to the United States.
Sugar cane was grown on most of the islands by the early 1870’s, and plantation owners were forced to look outside the islands for new workers. The first group of imported labor came from China, followed in succession by Portuguese, Korean, Japanese and Filipino workers. Historians generally describe the period of history from 1700-1898 as a period of continued loss of self-reliance and exploitation by economic and political forces from other parts of the world.