Isaak Iselin in Hawaiʻi, 1807

Map of the Hawaiian Islands with an inlet of Kealakekua Bay, with the then–common English transliteration of Hawaiian names, also used by Isaak Iselin. The Maryland sailed from Hawaiʻi (Big Island) in the east to Kauaʻi in the west, visiting Kealakekua Bay, mimicking Cook's route, which is plotted in this map.
Map by William Bligh in: Cook, James and King, James. A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, undertaken by command of his Majesty, (etc.). London: Printed for John Stockdale, (etc.), 1785.

Isaak Iselin–Roulet* (1783–1841) visited Hawaiʻi from May 18th to July 19th 1807 as a crew member of the American trading vessel Maryland. Travelling at a time when contact between EuroAmerican seafarers and Hawaiians was relatively new, Iselin's observations, recorded in his journal and letters, contain precious insights into the interactions between Hawaiians and their visitors, and into the perception of Hawaiʻi by seafarers.

The aim of this archival exercise is to work with the Hawaiʻi–related passages of the text. It is about unravelling the layers of Iselin's text, thinking about his perspective, his writing agenda, his prejudices and about the subjects he omitted from his text. In analytical terms, a global history perspective highlights different aspects touched upon in the source material, including indigeneity, gender and landscape. This exercise also touches on intertextuality, information channels and the construction of new knowledge.

* subsequently called Isaak Iselin.


David Hänggi-Aragai and Martin Dusinberre: Ad fontes, Isaak Iselin in Hawaiʻi, 1807, CC-BY, URL :