- LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0176
- LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0176
The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar is known for the uniqueness of its flora and fauna, but the island’s inhabitants are also diverse. Little is conclusively known about the settlement of the island in the first centuries CE, although most scholars believe that people arrived from East Africa and Southeast Asia in multiple waves and formed permanent settlements on different parts of the island by the 9th century. This mixture of African and Asian influences has left a lasting impression on the island’s populations. Coastal inhabitants on Madagascar were active participants in premodern Indian Ocean trade networks by around 1150. By the time Europeans arrived during the 16th century, the people living in the north of the island regularly supplied food, slaves, and valuable raw materials to vessels from East African and Comorian port cities, as well as from the more distant ports of the northern Indian Ocean. The leaders of a variety of political states and confederations dominated the export trade from the west and east coasts of Madagascar. By the 19th century, a strong centralized kingdom developed in Madagascar’s interior and dominated much of the island’s export trade until the French colonized the island in 1896. Following decades of challenges to the French colonial rule and bloody uprisings, the Malagasy gained political independence in 1960. Since independence, the island’s government has had difficulty in maintaining political stability as well as furthering economic development. The immediate postcolonial period was marked by a lengthy phase of single-party rule until 1992. The 1990s and 2000s were turbulent decades for politics on the island. Didier Ratsiraka was elected president in 1997 but stepped down in 2002 following an extremely divisive election. In 2009, the two-term democratically elected president, Marc Ravolomanana, left office under intense popular and military pressure. Leadership of the country was given to the mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina. This transfer of power was considered a coup d’état by many Western governments that, in turn, restricted aid to the island. Presidential elections were held in 2013, and Hery Rajaonarimampianina won what many international observers described as free and fair elections. See also the Oxford Bibliographies articles Swahili City States of the East African Coast, Comoro Islands, Indian Ocean Trade, and Indian Ocean and Middle Eastern Slave Trades.
Only recently has an accessible and thorough English-language history of the island been published. Randrianja and Ellis 2009 is based on new archaeological and historical research and effectively renders earlier overviews of the history of the island obsolete. At times, Madagascar falls out of discussions of African or Indian Ocean history, although Alpers 2013 makes a good case for the place of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean world. Allen and Covell 2005 and Bradt and Brown 1993 are worth examining for a list of scholarship about the island, although neither should be seen as comprehensive. The best overview of the older literature on the island, particularly from the 19th century, is Grandidier 1905–1957. The essays in Goodman and Benstead 2003 examine the island from an ecological perspective and provide a good background for any scholar interested in the interactions between humans and their environment on the island. Scales 2014 is an up-to-date treatment by a number of prominent scholars examining the key issue of conservation in Madagascar today.
Allen, Philip M., and Maureen Covell. Historical Dictionary of Madagascar. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2005.
This short reference book provides an overview of the history of Madagascar, although less thorough than Randrianja and Ellis 2009.
Alpers, Edward A. The Indian Ocean in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Although most of the essays are not strictly focused on the history of Madagascar, this collection firmly places Madagascar in the Indian Ocean world and connects the island with developments in nearby coastal East Africa.
Bradt, Hilary, and Mervyn Brown. Madagascar. World Bibliographical Series. Oxford: Clio, 1993.
The annotations in this bibliography are helpful for researchers, although the list of sources is far from complete and focuses on published material.
Goodman, Steven M., and Jonathan P. Benstead, eds. The Natural History of Madagascar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
This interdisciplinary collection of essays examines everything from the climate and geology of the island to debates over the premodern extinction of mega-fauna on Madagascar.
Grandidier, Guillaume. Bibliographie de Madagascar. 3 vols. Paris: Comité de Madagascar, 1905–1957.
Grandidier provides a fairly comprehensive list of mostly French-language publications dealing with Madagascar, with a focus on the 19th century in particular. For more on the older sources, see Grandidier, et al. 1903–1920, cited under Primary Sources: Collections.
Ranaivoson, Dominique. Madagascar: Dictionnaire des personnalités historiques. Antananarivo, Madagascar: Tsipika, 2005.
This book provides a brief biography of several hundred individuals who were influential in the history of Madagascar, including names from origin histories and Malagasy important in postcolonial political developments, although the annotations frequently lack information about the original source material.
Randrianja, Solofo, and Stephen Ellis. Madagascar: A Short History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
This book, cowritten by historians specializing in Madagascar in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, is both accessible and thorough. The writers rely on recent scholarship to examine the early settlement of the island, the first centralized states, the Merina Empire, the colonial period, and the postcolonial period. Appropriate for nonspecialists and undergraduates.
Scales, Ivan R., ed. Conservation and Environmental Management in Madagascar. London: Routledge, 2014.
This edited collection contains essays by a number of prominent scholars, many of whom are mentioned in this article, and combines historical, anthropological, and ecological approaches for understanding the challenges that face Madagascar today.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Achebe, Chinua
- Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
- African Socialism
- Africans in the Atlantic World
- Aid and Economic Development
- Arabic Language and Literature
- Archaeology and the Study of Africa
- Archaeology of Central Africa
- Archaeology of Eastern Africa
- Archaeology of Southern Africa
- Art, Art History, and the Study of Africa
- Arts of Central Africa
- Arts of Western Africa
- Asante and the Akan and Mossi States
- Bantu Expansion
- Benin (Dahomey)
- Botswana (Bechuanaland)
- Brink, André
- British Colonial Rule in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Burkina Faso (Upper Volta)
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Children and Childhood
- China in Africa
- Christianity, African
- Coetzee, J.M.
- Colonial Rule, Belgian
- Colonial Rule, French
- Colonial Rule, German
- Colonial Rule, Italian
- Colonial Rule, Portuguese
- Communism, Marxist-Leninism, and Socialism in Africa
- Comoro Islands
- Congo, Republic of (Congo Brazzaville)
- Congo River Basin States
- Conservation and Wildlife
- Crime and the Law in Colonial Africa
- Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)
- Development of Early Farming and Pastoralism
- Diaspora, Kongo Atlantic
- Disease and African Society
- Early States And State Formation In Africa
- Early States of the Western Sudan
- Economy, Informal
- Education and the Study of Africa
- Egypt, Ancient
- Environmental History
- Equatorial Guinea
- Ethnicity and Politics
- Europe and Africa, Medieval
- Family Planning
- Farah, Nuruddin
- Food and Food Production
- Fugard, Athol
- Genocide in Rwanda
- Geography and the Study of Africa
- Gikuyu (Kikuyu) People of Kenya
- Gordimer, Nadine
- Great Lakes States of Eastern Africa, The
- Hausa Language and Literature
- Health, Medicine, and the Study of Africa
- Historiography and Methods of African History
- History and the Study of Africa
- Ijo/Niger Delta
- Image of Africa, The
- Indian Ocean and Middle Eastern Slave Trades
- Indian Ocean Trade
- Invention of Tradition
- Iron Working and the Iron Age in Africa
- Islam in Africa
- Islamic Politics
- Kongo and the Coastal States of West Central Africa
- Language and the Study of Africa
- Literature and the Study of Africa
- Lord's Resistance Army
- Maasai and Maa-Speaking Peoples of East Africa, The
- Mau Mau
- Media and Journalism
- Military History
- Modern African Literature in European Languages
- Music, Dance, and the Study of Africa
- Music, Traditional
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
- North Africa from 600 to 1800
- North Africa to 600
- Northeastern African States, c. 1000 BCE-1800 CE
- Obama and Kenya
- Oman, the Gulf, and East Africa
- Oral and Written Traditions, African
- Police and Policing
- Political Science and the Study of Africa
- Political Systems, Precolonial
- Popular Culture and the Study of Africa
- Popular Music
- Population and Demography
- Postcolonial Sub-Saharan African Politics
- Seychelles, The
- Slave Trade, Atlantic
- Slavery in Africa
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Study of Africa
- South Africa Post c. 1850
- Southern Africa to c. 1850
- Spanish Colonial Rule
- States of the Zimbabwe Plateau and Zambezi Valley
- Sudan and South Sudan
- Swahili City States of the East African Coast
- Swahili Language and Literature
- Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar)
- Traditional Religion, African
- Trans-Saharan Trade
- Urbanism and Urbanization
- Wars and Warlords
- Western Sahara
- Women and African History
- Women and Colonialism
- Women and Politics
- Women and Slavery
- Women, Gender and the Study of Africa
- Women in 19th-Century West Africa
- Yoruba Language and Literature
- Yoruba States, Benin, and Dahomey