The island of Madagascar was isolated for a great many years from both Indian and African continents. Thanks to this, it allowed a great many endemic plant and animal species to develop before the first human colony, predicted to have arrived between 200 BC and 500 CE. Since then, the island has received waves of settlers of diverse origins including; Austronesian, Bantu, Arab, South Asian, Chinese and European. Through centuries of intermarriage, the Malagasy people developed.
By the middle ages, over a dozen tribes, each with different ethnic identities had emerged on the island, ruled by local chieftains. Among some communities, such as the Sakalava, Merina and Betsimisaraka, leaders seized the opportunity to unite these separate communities and establish true kingdoms under their rule, though these were yet to become one united country.
With a dramatic rise in piracy, and the establishment of the purported free pirate colony of Libertatia established on Île Sainte-Marie, Tribes such as the Sakalava and Merina exploited the European trade, exchanging Malagasy slaves for firearms and other goods. This rise in notoriety within European purview initiated a “race” between the British and French colonial empires for claim over Madagascar.
This is only up until the 19th century, and there is far too much information to fit in one post, so the modern history of Madagascar shall be saved for next week. I’ve very much enjoyed researching the rich history of Madagascar, a topic often left glossed over in Western history lessons. But in regards to general updates, I have started packing my suitcases in preparation for my trip, hopefully my visa arrives in time for me to head out without having to push back the date once more!
Next week; Dictators and rebellions, the modern history of Madagascar!