My Favorite Article Snippets

How the US Won Hawaii Through Disease

Pandemics Leave Us Forever Altered, talks about how germs have rewritten history a bit more than we give them credit for. There’s an interesting bit on how germs made Hawaii a part of the US. Here’s the snippet from the article:

Isolated Hawaii had almost no bacterial or viral disease until 1778, when the islands were “discovered” by Captain James Cook. Islanders learned the cruel facts of contagion so rapidly that by 1806, local leaders were refusing to allow European ships to dock if they had sick people on board. Nonetheless, Hawaii’s king and queen traveled from their clean islands to London, that cesspool of disease, arriving in May 1824. By July they were dead—measles.

Kamehameha II and Kamāmalu had gone to Britain to negotiate an alliance against the United States, which they correctly believed had designs on their nation. Their deaths scuttled the talks, and their successor, 12-year-old King Kamehameha III, could not resume them. The results changed the islands’ political destiny. Undeterred by the British navy, the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898. Historians have seldom noted the connection between measles and the presidency of Barack Obama.