Beyond Hawaiʻi

Now available from The University of California Press! (Or get it at your local bookseller, such as at Nā Mea Hawaiʻi / Native Books!)


In the century from the death of Captain James Cook in 1779 to the rise of the sugar plantations in the 1870s, thousands of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) men left Hawaiʻi to work on ships at sea and in nā ʻāina ʻē (foreign lands)—in California, the Arctic Ocean, the equatorial islands, and throughout the Pacific Ocean. Beyond Hawaiʻi tells the stories of these forgotten indigenous workers and how their labor shaped the Pacific World, the global economy, and the environment. From sandalwood harvesting to whaling, guano harvesting, and gold mining, these migrant workers were essential to the expansion of transnational capitalism and global ecological change. Bridging American, Chinese, and Pacific historiographies, Beyond Hawaiʻi is the first book to argue that indigenous labor—rather than ships, goods, and diseases—was the glue that held the Pacific World together.


“…[a] beautifully written, surprisingly poignant account of Hawaiian laborers fanning out across the nineteenth-century Pacific world… Rosenthal’s achievement is to paint a comprehensive picture seen from the perspective of Hawaiians themselves. The structure of [their] book is both intricate and elegant. It moves in an arc through time and space… The book will be essential reading for students of Hawaiian history and will also attract a wide graduate and undergraduate readership in the fields of environmental history and Pacific studies.”—Paul Kreitman, Environmental History (read the full review here)

“Gregory Rosenthal has provided an important study of indigenous Hawaiian labor in the nineteenth century… Beyond Hawai‘i shines when the author highlights the bodily experiences of kanakas, as well as uses native language sources to tell the stories of indigenous workers across the Hawaiian Pacific World… [T]his work is a well-researched critical contribution, as well as much-needed update to economic, indigenous, cultural, and social studies of this time period and the trans-Pacific trade world.”—JoAnna Poblete, Pacific Historical Review (read the full review here)

“This is an essential book for those interested in the Pacific World or the globalization of labor markets. Rosenthal’s arguments for the centrality of Hawaiians in this globalization are convincing, and [they] also offer compelling methodological models. It is also a well-written book filled with great research and ideas that would make a worthy addition to most world historians’ libraries.”—John Ryan Fischer, Journal of World History (read the full review here)

“Gregory Samantha Rosenthal’s outstandingly well-researched book is a particularly important contribution to the existing scholarship… [This] excellent study of the Hawaiian nineteenth-century working class from its inception to its dissolution is particularly relevant for understanding the undercurrents of past imperialistic capitalist oppression.”—Sebastian Jablonski, Journal of New Zealand & Pacific Studies (read the full review here)

Advance Praise

Beyond Hawai‘i is a sprawling study that moves outward from the island chain of Hawai‘i into the vast stretches of the Pacific. Gregory Rosenthal’s use of Hawaiian-language source material gives voice to an indigenous working class that eludes other scholars writing in the field. The result is an excellent and highly original work of history that resonates with current debates about Hawaiian sovereignty and more broadly about the place of labor in nineteenth-century capitalist economies.”—David Igler, author of The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush

“Thoughtful and deeply sourced, Beyond Hawai‘i gracefully illuminates the aspirations and struggles of Hawaiian chiefs and laborers, and those of an entire Islander civilization navigating a global capitalist system. Through remarkable portraits of Hawaiians like Boki, Make, and Kailiopio, Rosenthal reconstructs complex motives and perspectives as voyagers tie together the world through an oceanic labor circuit.”—Matt K. Matsuda, author of Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas, Peoples, and Cultures

Awards for the Dissertation

Beyond Hawaiʻi builds upon research in my doctoral dissertation (SUNY Stony Brook, 2015) which won the 2016 Rachel Carson Prize for Best Dissertation from the American Society for Environmental History as well as the 2016 Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation from the Working Class Studies Association. Here are some comments from the award and prize committees:

2016 Rachel Carson Prize for Best Dissertation:

“A transnational study of labor and environmental history within the Pacific Ocean, Rosenthal’s dissertation excels across the categories we used in our evaluation: writing, research and documentation, analysis, and contribution to the field. Rosenthal argues that historians of Hawaii and the environment have overlooked a central constitutive force in the Pacific World: the labor of indigenous Hawaiians. Drawing on archival research, which featured little-used indigenous newspapers, Rosenthal reconstructs the movements of Hawaiian workers across the transoceanic networks of the nineteenth century. It argues that the movement and mobility of Hawaiians across the ocean was a key component of transoceanic integration in the nineteenth century and that work and workers’ experiences are key to understanding how the Pacific Ocean functioned as part of a ‘Pacific world.’  [Their] narrative, as fluid as it is compelling, shines new light on the meanings of circulation and the making of economies and environments. But, perhaps most importantly, Rosenthal re-centers scholarship on circulation on the construction and exploitation of human bodies. In doing so, Rosenthal also charts an exciting path of future research that integrates environmental, labor, transnational, and indigenous histories.”

2016 Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation:

“Without ever using the word ‘intersectionality,’ this dissertation deftly shows how class, gender, race, ethnicity, and basic power relations were intimately fused yet distinct amidst the economic forces of the 19th century Pacific World.  Wonderfully written with sensitive and nuanced understandings of both the natural and human worlds, Hawaiians Who Left Hawaii . . . will undoubtedly be published pretty much as it is and will likely become a key text in the flourishing field of the History of Capitalism.”

“[W]hat I found exciting about this project is the way Rosenthal frames [their] study of an overlooked piece of working-class culture and history so clearly through an analysis of how class, race, and gender shape and are shaped by work, capitalism, and global interactions.  I appreciate, too, Rosenthal’s attention to the classed, raced, and gendered bodies of workers and to representations.”