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Madagascar, protests and revolts, 19th and 20th centuries

Luke Freeman

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Africa » Southern Africa

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899, 1900-1999

Key-Topics colonialism, nationalism, revolution, strikes, student movements

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00950.x


Popular resistance to state authority in Madagascar during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had two primary causes. First, the majority rural population had frequently been exploited by successive regimes whilst receiving few benefits in return. Second, the significant political and cultural influence of Europeans had fueled a recurrent nationalist sentiment calling for independence and a reassertion of “traditional” Malagasy authority and values. Such values were at the heart of the women's protest triggered in May 1822 when King Radama I, under the influence of British Protestant missionaries, had his long hair cut short and styled in European military fashion. He ordered the same for his soldiers. This was seen by the women, who traditionally were responsible for grooming and plaiting their husband's hair, as a way of sidelining female influence and as an affront to ancestral authority. Radama's troops surrounded the protestors, killed their leaders, and forced the remaining supporters to witness the devouring of the corpses by dogs. In 1835 Queen Ranavalona I expelled the missionaries. They returned after her death, and European influence increased. Radama II abandoned the ancestral rituals of circumcision and the royal bath. This action, coupled with the growing poverty of the rural population as the Merina Empire degenerated, triggered the episode of resistance known ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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