Isaak Iselin in Hawaiʻi, 1807

Comparing sources II – Task

During his Hawaiian sojourn on the Maryland, Isaak Iselin met various men of European and American descent then living in Hawaiʻi. These «beachcombers» adapted to the rules of society in Hawaiʻi, indigenized themselves, often had families there, and sometimes held important positions at the royal court. They were the foremost mediators between the EuroAmerican travellers and Hawaiian society. From a global history perspective, these mediators (or «brokers») constitute a significant object of study, standing as they did between cultural practices, and developing in many ways a transcultural mode of living.

In Hawaiʻi, Isaak Iselin met one of the most famous beachcombers of the late–eighteenth century, a man by the name of John Young. Young would be a major source of information and knowledge to Iselin during his stay (see Intertextuality III). But whereas Iselin gives a fairly detailed description of Young's own life story in his letter to Dietrich, he only introduces Young very briefly in the journal:

«He seems to be a sensible respectable man» (original journal, part 3, p. 25)

«Mr. Young is a respectable looking [sic] and appears a very sensible old man of about * * *» (published journal, p. 66)

Can you speculate as to why Iselin did not give a detailed description in his journal?


Iselin private archive Basel, § 103 (bag), envelope VII, Letter sent from Canton to my brother Dietrich Iselin,
p. 40.