Entomology and Empire: Settler Colonial Science and the Campaign for Hawaiian Annexation


  • Lawrence H. Kessler Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, USA


In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Hawaiʻi’s sugarcane planters used the cutting-edge agricultural science of biological pest control to promote diversified farming with the goal of burnishing Hawaiʻi’s image as a place appropriate for white American settlement. Hawaiian cane planters’ investment in biological pest control—the use of insectivorous and parasitic animals, as opposed to chemical insecticides—briefly encouraged white Americans to migrate to Hawaiʻi to become farmers, and thus helped planters argue that Hawaiʻi was an appropriate object for US annexation.

Author Biography

Lawrence H. Kessler, Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, USA

Lawrence Kessler is a postdoctoral fellow at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology & Medicine in Philadelphia. He completed his PhD in history (Temple University) in May 2016. Lawrence’s dissertation, “Planter’s Paradise: Nature and Culture on Hawaiʻi’s Sugarcane Plantations,” addresses the rise of one of the world’s most efficient and productive sugarcane plantation systems and the cultural, political, and environmental influence that cane planting had on the Hawaiian Islands. Kessler’s articles have appeared in the Pacific Historical Review, the World History Bulletin, and the Southern California Quarterly. He can be contacted at lk@chstm.org.