Early History of Madagascar: The Island of Africa


Madagascar is the name given to the the island by colonialists when they invaded. Madagasikara is the name that the locals use for their country. Africans have always inhabited the island of Madagascar. Early European historians falsely asserted that the Malay people came from Indonesia. This assertion has not be corroborated by any evidence. These historians cannot substantiate when exactly the Malay people moved to Madagascar from Indonesia so African historian have disregarded this speculation.

The Merina dynasty is believed to have united all the people living on the island. 90% of the people in Madagascar are Malagasy and there are 20 ethnic groups in Madagascar today. Many of these ethnic groups have languages that are closely related to Bantu dialects. The people of Madagascar had trade agreements with the rest of the continental Africa during precolonial times. Most of their trade was with the people in modern day Mozambique.

The Merina rulers of Madagascar welcomed the English missionaries and soon the island had converted to the Christian faith. This conversion to Christianity occurred during the time when the island began to modernize. The missionaries influenced the people to create schools, medical centers and industry. The Malagasy people believed that their embrace of Christianity and modernity would save them from colonialism. Unfortunately, they did not understand that the version of European Christianity they had been introduced to was used to further the goals of the imperialists. The missionaries in those days were into empire building and not true salvation.

In 1884, the French army launched their attack on the Malagasy people to expand the French empire. The Malagasy waged a good fight and the war ended in a stalemate. In 1895, the French launched a bigger invasion which utterly destroyed the Merina ruler ship and the wheels of French colonialism were set in place across the island. The French rule brought devastation as they looted the resources and did not invest in infrastructure development and only shipped resources out to France. The Malagasy who had strove to stay independent were forced to become French citizens until the 1960s when they eventually won their independence.

The Malagasy Republic, proclaimed on October 14, 1958, became an autonomous state within the French Community and on on 26 March 1960, Madagascar became an independent country and Philibert Tsiranana became its first president.


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