Oregon State University

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A Whale of a Story: Sex, Lies, and Testimony in the Nineteenth-Century Pacific World

Lecture by Lissa Wadewitz, Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Linfield College

Thursday, June 1, 2017 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

In the winter of 1860, the Kingdom of Hawai’i’s court of maritime law heard a scandalous case (Enos v. Sowle). Two islander cabin boys, Manuel Enos and Manuel Vierra, charged Captain Nathaniel Sowle of the American whaleship, the Montreal, with repeated counts of sodomy. Nearly all of the ship’s crewmembers testified to the extent and nature of the abuse in explicit detail and the court found Captain Sowle guilty. But was he? Or was it, as Sowle repeatedly contended, an elaborate conspiracy by his crew? Or was this case about something else entirely? What should historians do when archival evidence equally supports completely different versions of past events? And how do we decipher the worst imaginable handwriting from sources that may or may not reveal “what really happened”?

Memorial Union (campus map)
206: Asian Pacific
Jacob Hamblin
jdhamb at gmail.com
History Department
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