History of Madagascar


European's first sighting of Madagascar

August 10 1500

Diogo Diaz, a Portuguese explorer was the first European to sight Madagascar, naming it San Lorenzo (Ridgwell, 1937).

First European occupation


Party of 70 Portuguese established themselves on the south east of the island. The indigeous Malagasy killed all but 5 of them (Griffith, 1919)

Attempts at occupation by the Dutch

1595 - 1598

Lost many of their men due to illness, and consequently nicknamed Madagascar 'The Dutchman's Graveyard' (Griffith, 1919).

Attempted occupations by both the Dutch and the English

1618 - 1640

The Dutch and the English both established rival settlements on Madagascar, both of which were ultimately abandoned (Griffith, 1919).

Attempted colonisation by the French

1643 - 1650

Cardinal de Richelieu formed a company with the aim of colonising Madagascar on a grand scale. However the attempt failed, as within 7 years fever had killed off most the French immigrants (Griffith, 1919).

Reign of King Radama I

1810 - 1828

Son of King Andrianampoinimerina.
Developed a friendly relationship with the Britain, with the securing of an alliance whereby the British had exclusive use of Madagascar regarding trade, whilst they supported his rule through the supplying of weapons and training. Consequently King Radama I was able to conquer most of the rest of the island.
He also invited the London Missionary Society to Madagascar to establish schools and churches (Bradt, 2011).

First Missionaries


David Jones, from Wales, was the first missionary to settle in Antananarivo (Ridgwell, 1937).
He adapted the Latin alphabet for the Malagasy language, introduced the first printing press, and printed the Bible in Malagasy. He also set up a great number of schools.

Persecution of Christianity

26 February 1835 - 1861

Queen Ranavalona I was determined to rid Madagascar of Christianity and Europeans and forbade the practise of Christianity amongst the Malagasy.
Consequently most of the missionaries left the country, and many Madagascan were persecuted, tortured and even executed for their beliefs.

First Franco-Malagasy War

1883 - 1884

Ended with a treaty binding the Madagascan government to pay the sum of 10 million francs war indemnity to France, and the consent to be represented in all foreign relations by the Government of French Republic (Griffith, 1919).

Second Franco-Malagasy War

1894 - 1895

Expeditionary force under the command of General Duchesne was dispatched to compel complete submission of the Malagasy.
Antananarivo fell on 1st October 1895.
Cost the French £2,600,000 and the lives of 5,756 men (almost entirely from disease, with only 25 French soldiers dying from actual fighting) (Griffin, 1919).

Menalamba Rebellion

December 1895 - 1897

A resistance movement, triggered by the imposition of French colonial rule, against the forces of modernisation and the continuation of Merina administration (Campbell, 1991).

Annexing of Madagascar

March 2 1896

As a consequence of the Menalamba Rebellion, Madagascar was annexed and became a French territory, and the royal Merina family exiled to Algeria.

Malagasy Uprising

29 March 1947 - December 1948

Rebellion broke out across the country, with the aim of breaking independence to Madagascar. Rebels soon had between one sixth and a third of the island under their control. However the French fought back, with several units of the Foreign Legion and thousands more Senegalese troops as reinforcements. There was thought to be between 60 and 80 thousand Malagasy victims (Murphy, 1985).

Marc Ravalomanana's presidency

6 May 2002 - 17 March 2009

Marc Ravalomanana entered office following a political crisis in 2001, when both Ravalomanana and the previous president Ratsiraka declared themselves the victor.
When in office, he set about rebuilding infrastructure and attempted to implement his Durban Vision of tripling the number of protected areas. However he did little to tackle the problem of growing poverty (Bradt, 2011).

2009 coup

26 Jan 2009 - 21 March 2009

The then-mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, staged a uprising against President Ravalomanana, accusing him of dictator like behaviour and abuse of his position.
Rajoelina declared himself president, following the storming of the Presidential palace and raiding of the Central Bank, and Ravalomanana fleeing to South Africa.

Andry Rajoelina's presidency

21 March 2009 - Present

As a result of his unconstitutional and undemocratic rise to power, Rajoelina is still not recognised as the legitimate leader of Madagascar, and consequently most foreign aid has been frozen.


The Merina Kingdom rule


King Andrianampoinimerina succeeded to the throne of the small kingdom of Ambohimanga in 1787, and by 1808 had brought under his control the various other kingdoms and tribes in the central region, paving the way for the later development of a united Madagascar (Bradt, 2011).

French colonial rule

March 3 1896

Full independence

26 June 1960

Madagascar was awarded full independence, with its first president being Philibert Tsiranana (Bradt, 2011).