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Episode 35: Liholiho’s journey to England with Dr. Kamana Beamer

In 1794, King Kamehameha and Captain George Vancouver discussed a political alliance between Hawai‘i and England; in 1810, Kamehameha sent a letter to England, seeking its protection in exchange for supplying its ships. After he died in 1819, power passed to his son Liholiho. Imperialism had taken hold across the globe and more and more foreign ships were arriving, among them gunboats. Liholiho decided to follow up on his father’s ideas and, in 1823, sailed for another island kingdom halfway around the world on a highly atypical and ambitious journey, says geographer Dr. Kamana Beamer.

“The thing that struck me the most was the courage, the creativity in a period of depopulation and militarism and colonization. For this Hawaiian to come up with a strategy of sailing away to London to try to negotiate face to face with King George was amazing to me.”

In London, Liholiho and his party were recognized as royalty and feted by the British government. But the trip came at a terrible cost: that of Liholiho’s own life and the lives of several others traveling with him; they died of disease contracted in London. “Liholiho was a martyr for Hawaiian independence. Liholiho and his retinue gave their lives to ensure Hawaiian rule and sovereignty would remain over the Hawaiian Islands in perpetuity.”

researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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