History, French Encroachment
Queen Ranavalona, reigning monarch, French rule, military rule, expeditionary force
The French gained a temporary foothold on the island in 1642 but were driven out in 1674. They finally acquired a few trading bases along the east coast in the following century. Their sphere of influence was restricted, however, as a result of the rise of a powerful monarchy among the Merina, a people of Malay origin in the central plateau. From 1810 to 1828, during the reign of the Merina king Radama I, who was hostile to the French, the British gained influence. British officers trained Merina troops, and British missionaries introduced schools and Christianity. Following the death of Radama, a strong reaction against European culture developed. Reforms were abolished, the missionaries were persecuted, and trade relations with Britain were severed. On the accession of Radama II (in 1861), a generally progressive ruler, some of the early reforms were reinstituted. Radama II, who was friendly to the French, was subsequently murdered by the conservative faction at the Merina court. A protracted period of strained relations and recurrent hostilities with the French culminated in 1895 in submission by the reigning monarch, Queen Ranavalona III. In 1896, as a result of popular uprisings, Madagascar was proclaimed a colony of France; military rule was instituted, and the queen was exiled.
Various reforms and improvements were introduced in Madagascar during the following decades, but discontent with French rule gradually assumed serious proportions. In 1916 a secret nationalist society was outlawed, and hundreds of its members were jailed.
In May 1942, two years after the fall of France in World War II, the British government, fearful that the Japanese would seize Madagascar, dispatched an expeditionary force to the island. In 1943 the British surrendered control to the Free French government. The postwar period was marked by a resumption of nationalist agitation.
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