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History of Madagascar, from the Dark Ages to the Present Day

From Ancient Civilizations to Modern Times: History of Madagascar, from the Dark Ages to the Present Day

The history of Madagascar began around the 5th century BC with the arrival of Indonesian and Malayo-Polynesian immigrants in the western and northwestern parts of the island. These early settlers introduced rice cultivation and various plants from Southeast Asia, such as sugarcane, bananas, coconuts, and yams. They are also credited with introducing silk weaving to the region.

Following these initial immigrations, Africans and Islamized Arabs settled in different areas of the island. Subsequently, Europeans arrived in Madagascar around 1500. The first European to visit the island was Diégo Dias, a Portuguese navigator who gave his name to a region in northern Madagascar known as Diego Suarez.

In summary:
– Around 5th century BC, Indonesian and Malayo-Polynesian immigrants arrived in western and northwestern Madagascar.
– They brought rice farming and various plants from Southeast Asia.
– These immigrants are also associated with introducing silk weaving to the region.
– Africans, Islamized Arabs, and later Europeans settled in different parts of the island.
– Diégo Dias, a Portuguese navigator, was the first European to visit Madagascar.

First Period: The Dark Centuries (up to 1500)

Chapter 1 – The Beginnings

Mysterious Settlers

Madagascar was settled by immigrants from Africa and Southeast Asia over 2000 years ago. The exact origins of these early settlers remain a mystery, with theories suggesting they could have been Austronesian sailors or Arab and Indian traders. Regardless of their specific background, their influence is evident in the language, customs, and traditions of the Malagasy people.

The Deserted Island and the Creation of the Malagasy People

The different peoples from various regions mixed to create the unique Malagasy culture, with diverse ethnicities and languages. When the island was uninhabited, settlers had to adapt to the environment and natural resources of Madagascar. They developed various agricultural systems such as slash-and-burn farming and irrigation. They also domesticated animals like cattle and chickens. Social groups based on kinship, territory, or occupation were formed. The settlers practiced religious beliefs focused on ancestor worship and nature spirits.

Overall, the blending of people from different areas gave rise to the distinct Malagasy culture characterized by a mix of ethnicities and languages. In adapting to Madagascar’s environment and resources, settlers developed diverse agricultural techniques including slash-and-burn farming and irrigation. Additionally, they domesticated animals like cattle and chickens while forming social groups based on kinship, territory, or occupation. Their religious beliefs centered around honoring ancestors and nature spirits.

Chapter 2: The New Arrivals

Navigating the Indian Ocean

The maritime trade between Africa, Asia, and Madagascar led to migrations and cultural expansion. The Indian Ocean served as a hub for trade and interaction among different civilizations. Malagasy people took advantage of their strategic location to engage in these exchanges, exporting local products like gold, ivory, spices, and slaves while importing goods such as iron, copper, fabric, and rice. They also welcomed travelers from diverse backgrounds including Arabs, Persians, Indians, and Chinese. This exchange of goods and encounters with various cultures enriched the Malagasy society.

Arrivals on the West Coast and East Coast

New peoples from different parts of the world continued to arrive on the coasts of Madagascar, adding to the island’s cultural diversity. Bantu communities from East Africa settled gradually on the west coast starting from the 10th century, bringing their language, pastoral way of life, and hierarchical social structure. Meanwhile, Swahili populations from the African coast established themselves on the east coast from the 12th century onwards, introducing their Muslim religion, maritime trade, and stone architecture.

Infiltrations and Contributions

The arrival of new settlers in Madagascar brought along advanced technologies, farming methods, and different religious beliefs that influenced the local society. These technologies involved iron metallurgy, pottery making, and shipbuilding. Farming practices introduced included irrigated rice cultivation, cassava, and coffee production. The newcomers also brought in Islam, Christianity, and various local worship practices as their religious beliefs. These contributions allowed the Malagasy people to broaden their economic activities, enhance their living conditions, and enrich their cultural heritage.

The Ancestors’ Era (1500-1810)

Chapter 3: Europeans Around the Island

Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French settlements (1642-1674)

European nations explored and established colonies in Madagascar to expand their commercial and political influence. The Portuguese were the first to reach Madagascar in 1500 on their way to India, setting up some trading posts and religious missions but not staying long-term. The Dutch arrived in 1642, attracted by the wealth of rosewood and ebony, founding the colony of Fort-Dauphin before being expelled by the Malagasy in 1674. In the 17th century, the English also tried but failed to establish themselves on the island. The French were the most proactive, establishing several settlements on both the east and west coasts during the same period.

The Pirate Era (1684-1724)

Madagascar became a haven for pirates who roamed the Indian Ocean to steal from merchant ships. The pirates were often European sailors who had deserted or been captured by other pirates. They formed a diverse and free community, living by their own laws and customs. They frequently allied with local kings who provided them protection and supplies in exchange for a share of the loot. The pirates played a part in spreading European culture in Madagascar, particularly through mixed marriages.

The Mascarene Islands and the coast of Madagascar (1724-1811)

The European nations expanded their presence on the coast of Madagascar, often competing for control of resources. The Mascarene Islands, including La Réunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues, were colonized by the French in the 18th century. These islands served as a hub for trade with Madagascar and India. They were also involved in the slave trade, where thousands of Malagasy people were taken to work on sugar plantations in nearby islands or the Caribbean. Meanwhile, there were conflicts between the French and English along the coast of Madagascar as they vied for control of trade and territories.

European Activities and Their Outcomes

Madagascar’s history has been shaped by activities that have had a lasting impact on its politics, economy, and society. Powerful kingdoms emerged in Madagascar, resisting or leveraging European influence to dominate neighboring regions. The island’s economy became part of the global colonial trade system, prioritizing the export of tropical products over local development. The cultural mixing between Malagasy people and Europeans resulted in the emergence of a new mixed-race social class known as Karana.

Chapter IV – Ancestor’s Civilization

Material Life

Malagasy ancestors are descendants of a mixture of African and Southeast Asian populations who settled on the island about 2000 years ago. They adapted to Madagascar’s varied geography and climate by using the natural resources available to them. Their daily life involved building houses from wood, bamboo, or earth, crafting tools and weapons from iron, wood, or bone, practicing slash-and-burn agriculture, raising zebus, and fishing.

Spiritual Life

The Merina people have a strong spiritual life centered around their belief in a supreme god called Zanahary or Andriamanitra. They also honor their deceased ancestors, known as Razana, who are believed to play a role in the lives of the living. The Merina perform elaborate funeral rites to ensure that the departed can join the world of the ancestors and to maintain connections between generations. Additionally, they show reverence for nature spirits known as Tody or Zazavavy, which are thought to reside in trees, rocks, and springs.

Society and Political Institutions

Their society is based on family ties, solidarity, and hierarchy. They form clans called Foko that share a common origin and territory. The clans have leaders known as Andriana or Mpanjaka who hold political and religious power. They follow customs and laws known as Fomba or Dina that govern social relations and conflicts.

Chapter V – Malagasy Kingdoms: 15th to 17th Century

While some faced challenges settling on the island, others formed ethnic groups and tribes. This led to the emergence of several kingdoms, including the Antemoro kingdom in the East from the 13th to 19th century, Betsimisaraka kingdom slightly further north from Antogil Bay to Mananjary in the 18th century, Sakalava kingdoms in the West from Toliary (Tuléar) to Mahajanga (Majunga) starting from the 15th century. The Mahafaly and Masikoro kingdoms appeared in the 16th and 17th centuries respectively, extending to the north of Toliary. The Betsileo kingdom arose in the 17th century at the center but split in the following centuries, giving rise to the Merina monarchy at the start of 19th century.

Third Period: The New Era (since 1810)

Chapter VI – The Kingdom of Madagascar

Madagascar under Radama I

Madagascar was established by Radama I, the king of the Merina kingdom in the central highlands. With a modern army armed with guns from the British, he brought much of Madagascar under his rule. He made diplomatic ties with European powers like France and England and promoted Western education, Protestant Christianity, and the use of Latin-based Malagasy writing.

The oppressive rule of Queen Ranavalona I

Ranavalona I took over the throne after her husband’s death in 1828. She enforced strict rules, like banning Christianity and punishing missionaries and converts. She limited contact with foreigners, forced her people to do labor, and resisted French invasion attempts. Her reign was defined by isolation from the outside world and authoritarian measures.

Radama II’s reform attempts and the coup d’état

When Ranavalona I died in 1861, her son Radama II became king. He wanted to improve relations with Europeans and make the government more liberal. But he was killed in a coup in 1863 by his prime minister Rainivoninahitriniony and his cousin Rasoherina, who took over as queen. This time was full of political plots and power struggles at the royal court.

The Reign of Ranavalona II and Rainilaiarivony

Ranavalona II took over the throne from Rasoherina in 1868. She embraced Protestant Christianity and made her kingdom a Christian nation. Her husband, Rainilaiarivony, became prime minister in 1864 and held power until 1895. He implemented various reforms to modernize the country and strengthen its independence against French colonial aspirations. Additionally, he dealt with revolts from coastal peoples who opposed the Merina rule.

The end of Madagascar’s kingdom

Despite Rainilaiarivony’s efforts, the French invasion of Madagascar in 1895 ended the kingdom and established a ghostly protectorate. This event had significant consequences for Madagascar, as it marked the beginning of French colonization and the loss of the country’s political independence.

Chapter VII – History of Madagascar Before 1895

Regional history, political institutions of the kingdom, economy, and people

Before Madagascar was unified by Radama I in the early 19th century, it was divided into several independent kingdoms or principalities. Some of these included the Sakalava kingdom in the west and northwest, the Betsileo kingdom in the central-south, the Betsimisaraka kingdom in the east, and various other kingdoms across different regions of the island. These kingdoms had their own political institutions based on hereditary or elective monarchy, distinct legal and religious customs, unique Malagasy dialects, and specific economic and social lifestyles. They also had varying relationships with foreign powers such as Arabs, Portuguese, French, and English. The kingdoms experienced periods of both peace and war among themselves as well as with the centralized Merina power.

Chapter VIII – From French Rule to Malagasy Republic

The Attempt of Real Protectorate (1895-1896)

The real protectorate attempt (1895-1896) marked the start of French colonial expansion in Madagascar. During this time, France tried to gain political and economic control over the island.

Gallieni’s Years of Service (1896-1905)

In 1896, Gallieni became the governor general of Madagascar. During his time in office (1896-1905), he worked on carrying out France’s colonial policy and reorganizing the country’s administration and infrastructure.

The Era of Successors (1905-1939)

During the period of succession from 1905 to 1939, several governors general continued the colonization and development efforts in Madagascar initiated by Gallieni’s mandate. Despite some progress, the island still faced political and economic instability.

Toward the Malagasy Nation (1940-1960)

Madagascar started moving towards independence as nationalist movements and sovereignty demands grew. Eventually, the island gained independence from France in 1960.

Succession to Power

First Republic and popular uprising

Madagascar became independent in 1960. Since then, it has had four republics and twelve presidents. The first president was Philibert Tsiranana, who led the country from 1958 to 1972 with support from France. However, his rule was marked by tension and growing economic problems. In 1972, a popular uprising led to Tsiranana’s downfall and a change in government.

Implementation of a military regime

After the uprising, General Gabriel Ramanantsoa seized power and established a military regime. This period saw increasing political and economic instability, leading to the assassination of Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava in 1975. General Gilles Andriamahazo then took over as head of the national military committee, but the situation remained precarious.

The Second Malagasy Democratic Republic

In 1975, power was given to navy captain Didier Ratsiraka, who declared the second democratic Malagasy Republic. Ratsiraka followed a socialist policy and aimed to strengthen relations with countries in the Soviet bloc. He was reelected in 1982 and 1989, but his reign faced a serious economic and social crisis. This led to protests and strikes as the population expressed dissatisfaction with the situation.

Political transition and the third Republic

In 1991, under growing public pressure, Ratsiraka agreed to share power with Albert Zafy, the opposition leader. Zafy became president of the national committee for economic and social recovery, marking the start of a political transition towards a third Republic. In 1992, a new Constitution was adopted to organize presidential elections. This marked an important shift in the country’s political landscape toward a more democratic system.

The Presidency of Albert Zafy and His Removal

Albert Zafy won the 1992 presidential election in Madagascar and became the third president of the country. He implemented a liberal and decentralized policy, but his reforms faced obstacles due to conflicts with the Parliament and Prime Minister. In 1996, Zafy was removed from office by the National Assembly for violating the Constitution. Norbert Ratsirahonana, president of the Constitutional Council, took over as interim president.

Didier Ratsiraka’s return and political crisis

Didier Ratsiraka returned to power in the 1996 presidential election by defeating Albert Zafy. Initially embracing socialist policies, Ratsiraka later shifted to a more moderate approach and sought negotiations with international financial backers to address the country’s economic challenges. Despite his efforts, his leadership faced renewed opposition due to increasing political tensions.

Political crisis and disputed election results

In 2001, during the presidential elections, there was a dispute between two candidates in Madagascar. The mayor of Antananarivo, Marc Ravalomanana, and businessman stood against Ratsiraka. After the election results were challenged by Ravalomanana, he declared himself as the president of the republic. This disagreement led to a prolonged political crisis that lasted for several months and put the country in a political deadlock.

Ratsiraka’s departure and Ravalomanana’s arrival

The political crisis peaked in July 2002 when Didier Ratsiraka left the country for France under international pressure. Marc Ravalomanana became recognized as the fourth president by the international community. He pursued an ambitious plan for economic and social development, but his leadership faced allegations of authoritarianism and corruption.

Rajoelina conflict and coup

In December 2008, Marc Ravalomanana clashed with Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo and a former disc jockey. Rajoelina organized protests against Ravalomanana’s policies. The situation escalated, leading to Rajoelina seizing control of the presidential palace in March 2009 with the support of the military. He declared himself president of the High Transitional Authority. As a result, Ravalomanana fled the country and sought refuge in South Africa.

International condemnation and aid suspension

The international community condemned Rajoelina’s coup in Madagascar and stopped helping the country. This had big effects on the economy and society, making the country face even bigger challenges.

Andry Rajoelina’s government lacks democratic legitimacy

Andry Rajoelina led the country for four years without democratic legitimacy, despite attempts from regional and international mediators to solve the political crisis. He seized power through a coup d’état and governed amidst controversy. Madagascar faced numerous political, economic, and social challenges during this time.

New Constitution is Officially Announced

In November 2010, Andry Rajoelina introduced a new Constitution that created the fourth Republic of Madagascar. The aim was to establish a political and institutional framework for the country, but it sparked controversy due to its adoption without a fully legitimate democratic process.

2013 Presidential Election and Political Agreement

In December 2013, a presidential election took place in Madagascar under the supervision of the United Nations. However, two former presidents, Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, were not allowed to run for office due to a political agreement aiming to resolve a crisis. This sparked debates and controversies regarding the legitimacy and fairness of the electoral process.

Challenges Remain Despite Hery Rajaonarimampianina’s Election

Hery Rajaonarimampianina, backed by Andry Rajoelina, won the presidential election with 53% of the votes in January 2014. He became the fifth president of the country and aimed to mend international relations by forming an inclusive government. However, Madagascar faced ongoing economic challenges and internal political tensions.

Rajaonarimampianina resigns and Rajoelina elected

In September 2018, Hery Rajaonarimampianina resigned from his position as president to run for the early presidential election scheduled in November-December of the same year. During this time, the President of the Senate, Rivo Rakotovao, took on the role of head of state. The presidential election saw three former presidents, Andry Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana, and Hery Rajaonarimampianina, vying for the position. In the end, Andry Rajoelina won with 55% of the votes and became the sixth president of the Republic since January 2019.

Chapter X: The Country and Its People’s Development

The Economy of Madagascar

Madagascar’s economy relied heavily on agriculture and natural resources, with a strong dependence on local labor. French colonial leaders introduced new farming techniques and staple products to boost economic development. However, national economic policies after gaining independence often led to ongoing economic challenges.

Madagascar’s Population

The population of Madagascar has continued to grow over the years, despite economic and political challenges. The diverse people of the island have maintained their cultural and linguistic traditions while gradually adapting to French influence and evolving political situations.
Madagascar’s population keeps increasing despite economic and political difficulties.
The people on the island have held onto their cultural and language traditions while also adjusting to French influence.
This growth has happened even with all the problems in politics and money in Madagascar.

Malagasy Society: Important Information

The Malagasy society developed under French colonial influence and the struggle for independence. New ideas, techniques, and values from abroad transformed local cultures and traditions. Despite this, the population maintained a strong sense of national identity and pride by preserving their cultural traditions. Over centuries, Madagascar’s history has been shaped by these dynamics, leaving a lasting impact on its people and their heritage.

Sources and References: How to Properly Cite Information

Madagascar’s history from 700 to 1905 is rich and diverse. It involves various sources such as the accounts of M. Désiré Charnay, M. Le Dr H. Lacaze, Dr d’Anfreville de La Salle, and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The colonization of Madagascar under Louis XV is detailed in the unpublished correspondence of the Count de Maudave.

The country’s history and geography are covered in works by Hubert Des Champs and Henry d’Escamps. These resources provide insights into Madagascar’s population, customs, institutions, and the affairs that transpired between 1885-1895.

Throughout these periods, Madagascar underwent significant changes influenced by external forces as well as internal dynamics. These historical accounts shed light on how the nation evolved over time and offer valuable perspectives on its past.

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