During the first decades of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Maui was the center of political and commercial life. With the arrival of foreigners at the end of the 18th century, the island, called “Mowee” by early sailors, began to fade in importance as the deep-water port of Honolulu was more conducive to trade than Lahaina.
By the dawn of the 20th century, the rapid growth of the sugar and pineapple industries had brought workers from as far away as the Philippines, China, Japan, and Portugal, changing forever the face of Maui’s community. In the half-century since statehood (1959), Maui has turned from agriculture to tourism, prospering economically with the island blossoming into an international visitor destination.
Maui: A History reveals all the major events and personages in the island’s saga—Polynesian settlement, pre-contact life, European discovery, whaling, the coming of American missionaries, the development of a sugar plantation economy, the arrival of Asian immigrants to work the fields, and Camp Maui/World War II. History makers include: the ruthless chief Kahekili; the French explorer La Pérouse; the powerful ruling queen Ka‘ahumanu; Kamehameha III—Hawai‘i’s longest reigning monarch; missionaries Dwight Baldwin and William Richards; and sugar baron Claus Spreckels.