Warfare and state formation in Hawaii: the limits on violence as a means of political consolidation

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    Between 1782 and 1812, Kamehameha I conquered and unified the Hawaiian Islands. This process was unprecedented in Hawaii and coincided with increasing European contact, prompting many to attribute his success to European weapons and ideas. Those studying chiefly power in pre-unification Hawaii emphasise economic and ideological factors and fail to examine coercive capabilities in any detail, as well as the specifics of time and place. The approaches of other disciplines offer new perspectives. European military historians' emphasis on the importance of logistical, organisational and psychological factors calls for a re-evaluation of the significance of European weaponry and mercenaries in Kamehameha's wars of unification. He gained victory because his opponents overextended themselves logistically, and were weakened by internal divisions at crucial times. Military victory alone was not enough to secure power. Kamehameha also mastered the art of building and maintaining coalitions. Demilitarisation of the islands was central to the unification process.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-52
    JournalJournal of Pacific History
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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