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The written history of Madagascar began in the seventh century A.D., when Arabs established trading posts along the northwest coast. European contact began in the 1500s, when Portuguese sea captain Diego Dias sighted the island after his ship became separated from a fleet bound for India. In the late seventeenth century, the French established trading posts along the east coast.
Beginning in the 1790s, Merina rulers succeeded in establishing hegemony over the major part of the island. In 1817, the Merina ruler and the British governor of Mauritius concluded a treaty abolishing the slave trade, which had been important in Madagascar’s economy. In return, the island received British military and financial assistance. British influence remained strong for several decades, during which the Merina court was converted to Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Anglicanism.
The British accepted the imposition of a French protectorate over Madagascar in 1885 in return for eventual control over Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, and as part of an overall definition of spheres of influence in the area. Absolute French control over Madagascar was established by military force in 1895-96 and the Merina monarchy was abolished.
Malagasy troops fought in France, Morocco, and Syria during World War I. After France fell to the Germans in 1942, Madagascar was administered first by the Vichy Government and then by the British, whose troops occupied the strategic island to preclude its seizure by the Japanese. The Free French received the island from the United Kingdom in 1943.
In 1947, with French prestige at low ebb, a nationalist uprising was suppressed only after several months of bitter fighting. The French subsequently established reformed institutions in 1956 under the Overseas Reform Act, and Madagascar moved peacefully toward independence.
The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed on October 14, 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence on June 26, 1960.
1818 - Missionary envoys from the London Missionary Society established schools, transcribed the Malagasy language using the Roman alphabet, translated the Bible, and introduced a variety of new technologies to the island
1828 - 1861 Residents of Madagascar could accuse one another of various crimes, including theft, Christianity and especially witchcraft, for which the ordeal of tangena was routinely obligatory and the tangena ordeal caused about 3,000 deaths annually. In 1838, it was estimated that as many as 100,000 people died as a result of the tangena ordeal
1883 - France invaded Madagascar in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War
1914 - 1918 Malagasy troops fought for France in World War I
1947 - Surprise attacks were launched by Malagasy nationalists, against military bases and French-owned plantations in the eastern part of the island and the number of Malagasy nationalist fighters estimated at over one million
1947 - The French began to counter the nationalists and the estimated number of Malagasy casualties varies from a low of 11,000 to a high of over 100,000
1960 -Madagascar achieved independence
Alfred Grandidier and Guillaume Grandidier, Collection du Ouvrage Ancients Concernant Madagascar 5 vols. Paris: Comité de Madagascar, 1907. Digital versions at Internet Archive: Vol. 1 | Vol. 2 | Vol. 3 | Vol. 4 | Vol. 5 - free.
W. Foster, "An English Settlement in Madagascar in 1645-1646," The English Historical Review, Vol. 27 (1912):239-50. Digital version at Internet Archive - free.