Madagascar Recent History

Marco Polo, in the “Million” described this island as the “best and largest of the whole world”. In reality, it is the fourth largest in the world by surface. It was discovered by the Portuguese in 1500 but long before it had had powerful rulers, such as the queens Rangitra and Rafohy, who commanded the Vazimba. Then came the Malays subjected to King Andriamanelo; these made alliances with the Vazimba and then, all together, they were in command of Ralambo, son of Andriamanelo, who enlarged the domain and enlarged the rice cultivation.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Madagascar, the Portuguese did not establish colonies on the island; instead at the time of the King of France, Louis XIII, a Norman company, benefiting from the help of Cardinal Richelieu, he began exploration and colonization starting from Sainte Luce, where the Protestant Pronis had founded a small colony, from which Bourbon originated, the current Reunion.

Then, when the “frond war” broke out in France, the colony also declined because colonization was considered too expensive at the time and therefore, since the island was reunited with the Crown, governors were sent.

These proved so incapable that the natives not only rebelled but killed all the French who were in Fort Dauphin: it was 1672. For a long time in France there was no mention of Madagascar. However, without archiving the colonization project.

Madagascar Recent History

Another explorer, the Hungarian MA Beniowski, hired by France in 1774 in Antongil Bay, founded a colony. His mastery attitudes irritated the natives who killed him in combat in 1786.

Meanwhile, however, the succession of Ralambo’s heirs continued on the island and after him the son Andriamasinavalona had risen to the throne, who greatly extended his reign but made the mistake of dividing it between his four children.

In 1797 he was succeeded by his nephew Andrianampoinimerina, who reigned until 1810, subdued several populations thus becoming master of the whole central territory.

In 1810 his son Radama I became king who remained on the throne until 1828. During these years, having known European products but above all, having ascertained the superiority of men, he wanted to start a civilization and had schools built which he attended not only to young people but also to adults; he gave impetus to agriculture, intensified trade and had industries implanted and developed. Then he sent some young men to England for the specific purpose of learning the trades; he brought many English artisans to Madagascar and in 1823 he gave orders to build bridges over the great rivers so that communications could be speeded up.

The French architect Legros had an elegant house built which he called “Trano Vola” and a country residence. In 1828 Ranavalona I ascended the throne, which extended his reign over almost the whole island, excluding the southern part. During his reign the first large building was built in Madagascar, the “Manjaka Miadana” (which in indigenous language means “Palace where people govern well in peace”).

Meanwhile, with the increase in well-being, the population had also increased and it was necessary for the queen to increase the number of her army’s members in order to be able to meet all needs and to defend the extensive borders.

During the Napoleonic period, alternate war events occurred, especially for the expansionist aims of the French and English who, after conquering the Ile de France, then called Mauritius, also wanted to join Madagascar.

The result was a xenophobia by the locals, which dissolved only when in 1861 Radama II ascended the throne which, instead, called the Europeans to complete the colonization of the island. Thus schools were built, the Christian religion spread and churches were raised from all over the capital, Tananarive. Radama II, however, was a dissolute and soon provoked the wrath of his ministers and his people and for this reason a riot broke out which saw him succumb. In the night between 11 and 12 May 1863 he was killed and his widow Rabodo was proclaimed queen, who reigned with the name of Rasoherina. The queen let the Christian religion be practiced and reiterated, for Europeans who wanted it, the right to live in Madagascar, always under the French protectorate.

In the meantime, other queens had alternated with the throne and in 1893 Ranavalona III reigned and Le Myre de Vilers was appointed as general resident.

Many proposals for the defense of the protectorate and French rights were snubbed by the Crown and many French citizens were assassinated and so, after various attempts at agreements, on October 17, 1894 the resident and his compatriots were forced to return to their homeland.

It was, of course, a declaration of war that was fought on the island and was masterfully conducted by General Duchesne. All 1895 was necessary to reach the conquest of the capital and this happened on October 1st. The French protectorate continued and only nominal sovereignty remained for the queen.

This did not please the people who wanted to free themselves at all costs of foreign domination. So there was an insurrection, soon quelled by General Duchesne who, then, considered the chapter definitively closed, returned to France with the troops. It was a mistake because the Malagasy people clandestinely prepared another uprising in the north and several Europeans were massacred.

In August 1896 the French government sent a skilled general, but also a capable administrator, JS Gallieni, to Tananarive, who first exiled the queen by sending her to La Reunion. Then with his action called “wildfire”, making his military missions branch from the center of the capital to the outside, to the coasts and to all the internal counties, with a clearly profitable economic policy for the populations, he managed to pacify the whole country and, continuing with this tactic, by 1902 the whole territory was in the hands of the French.

Gallieni in 1905 left the government of Madagascar in the hands of prudent indigenous administrators, under the control of military commanders, authorizing them to take wise personal initiatives to settle any question. This method, scrupulously followed, brought the island to a high degree of economic prosperity in just 35 years of occupation.

During the Second World War, the island, due to its strategic geographical position, represented an important bulwark for the defense of the Allied forces. But first it was the scene of struggles because the French troops of Marshal Petain prevented the British from occupying the coastal bases from which they could dominate the Mozambique channel, to block any Japanese invasions.

On the Allied side, sovereignty on the island was confirmed by Free France and at the end of the war, in fact, the British evacuated.

On March 29, 1947, an insurrection broke out for the overthrow of the French administration. This action had been carried out by a newly established indigenous organization called “Democratic Movement for Malagasy Renewal”. Among the leaders of the Movement there were two Malagasy deputies present in the French National Assembly, Ravoahangy and Rabemanjary who, together with six other rioters, were sentenced to death by the Tananarive Court on 4 October 1948.

After the harsh repression, France returned to operating in a more democratic way, allowing the formation of various parties, both regional and national. Among these, an Association of Catholic students of 1953 was of greater importance, which began the demands for independence.

In 1956, France passed a framework law in which the six regions were allowed to form their own assembly, made up of six members. In the capital instead there would have been a Governing Council, made up of eight members, and a representative Assembly elected by restricted suffrage. And on March 31, 1957, elections were held which saw the moderation predominate over the Catholic Union that promoted independence. And to obtain this, on May 1, 1958, ten small political parties joined into a single Congress Party, which was also joined by the then President of the Executive Council Ph. Tsiranana. However, in September 1958, when De Gaulle called a referendum, he adhered to the proposal of the “Associated State of the French Community” which, then, received 80% of the votes.

On October 14, 1958, the “Republique Malgache” took place, as a Republic associated with the French community and President Tsiranana, who was proclaimed as such on May 1, 1959 by a Parliament that had been formed by the union of the six Regional Assemblies. Madagascar reached its full autonomy on June 26, 1960 and on the following September 20 it became part of the United Nations.

Under the presidency of Tsiranana for at least a decade, except for a few discrepancies with the intellectuals, everything took place in order and continued with a pro-western foreign policy, with particular regard to the cultural predominance of France.

In 1967 Madagascar strengthened economic relations with all French-speaking African countries and also with the Republic of South Africa. But in 1969, following an economic recession and with the absence of the president due to illness, which continued until 1970, anti-government demonstrations took place because the people, overburdened with taxes and subjected to abuse by officials, were no longer able to submit to the methods government authoritarians and in April 1971, in the Tulear region, the first peasant revolt broke out, which was bloody repressed.

In January 1972 Tsiranana was reconfirmed in office but violent unrest forced him to leave and was replaced by General G. Ramanantsoa who applied extensive reforms designed to protect national interests and thus had wide consents for the power that was conferred on him for a five-year period, after the complete exhaustion of Tsiranana.

The elections of 1973, if they allowed the victory of the government party, could not however prevent the formation of an organization of the far left which was called “Movement for the Proletarian Power”. Political and social struggles and tensions occurred among the various ethnic groups of the country, until at the beginning of 1975 a Military Directory was elected which initiated a leftist policy, nationalized banks and insurance companies, strengthened local communities and began extensive economic planning.

In June 1975 France, after having lost many privileged economic positions, was forced to vacate and in December 1975 with a popular referendum a new Constitution and the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar arrived, with captain D. Ratsiraka as president.

He was re-elected in 1982 and 1989 and tried to always remain loyal to the principles of socialism, Malagasy authenticity. But a difficult economic situation forced him to turn to the International Monetary Fund which, however, imposed reservations for which he had to put limits on nationalizations and, although easing the tension with France, never returned to the franc area.

The conflicts that had always existed between the internal and coastal populations in 1990 resulted in violent demonstrations that put the government in crisis.

Ratsinaka had to apply more democratic systems, sanctioned a new Parliamentary-type Constitution and yet in the February 1993 elections he was defeated by the leader of the opposition, A. Zafy. Ratsiraka remained on the Malagasy political scene and founded a new party, namely “Avantgarde pour le Redressement Economique et Social”.

The change in the economic system, from collectivist to liberal, as well as the long stagnation between the passage from the Second to the Third Republic, caused serious damage to the country, bringing the income of the inhabitants to a fifth of the previous one.

Zafy, leader of the Living Forces Committee, was then President of the Republic while Prime Minister was appointed F. Ravony. The government was a coalition, but the various too fragmented members did not get along with each other. So there was some political instability.

As the economic situation had worsened, it was essential to ask for support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Both these bodies, however, asked for guarantees and the Malagasy government identified in these guarantees the strong cuts to be made to public spending.

The Head of State and the parliamentary majority immediately took sides against this decision. Rather, they suggested starting financial deals with private companies. The disagreements that arose between the President and the Premier immediately proved incurable and Zafy had a popular referendum held in September 1995 to bring about a reform of the Constitution, so as to assume the power to personally elect the Prime Minister. And since Zafy won the referendum, he appointed E. Rakotovahini as prime minister. The government from the latter format lived little and always in the midst of contrasts of all kinds, while also Zafy was gradually isolated.

Furthermore, there was a resurgence of conflicts between the coastal populations, to which both the President and the Premier belonged, and the internal populations, widely represented by the opposition. This managed, in May 1996, to form a new government which, however, had a very short path, due to the bad economic policy practiced. Zafy was dismissed from Parliament and who benefited from all these national vicissitudes was Ratsiraka who in January 1997 won the presidential elections and returned, therefore, to lead the country after 5 years.


He immediately studied some reforms which decreed the federal form of the state; he was immediately opposed by the opposition because with this the regional decentralization was expected first, then a strengthening of the executive and also deprived Parliament of the power to dismiss the President. For the approval of these proposals, a referendum was held in March 1998 and all amendments were approved.

With this situation in May we went to the policies that assigned the majority of seats to the party of Ratsiraka, that is, the Association for the Revival of Madagascar.

Even in the international arena there were general improvements, in the early 1990s, with Israel, South Africa and South Korea. France, however, always remained the privileged state. Then, starting in 1997, Madagascar sought ever closer ties with the industrialized countries of Southeast Asia and in 1999 strengthened trade with China.