A Historical Timeline for Madagascar


Library of Congress, Country Studies publication 1994: Timeline:
  • 160 million years ago - Madgascar is born as it separates from the African mainland
  • 80 million years ago - Madgascar breaks away from India
  • Around 2000 years ago - Madagascar settled by Indonesians or people of mixed Indonesian/African descent
  • 800-900 AD - Arab merchants begin trading along the northern coast
  • 1200 AD - central highlands of the island are settled.
  • August 10, 1500 - Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias becomes first European to land on Madagascar after he is blown off course on the way to India. He named the island St. Lawrence.
  • 1500s - Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English attempt to establish trading settlements which fail due to hostile conditions and fierce local Malagasy
  • late 1600s through the early 1700s - pirates ruled the eastern coast of the island
  • 1700s - the Sakalava of the western coast establish the first kingdom which extended from Tulear in the south to Diego Suarez in the north.
  • 1700s - The French attempt to establish military positions on the east coast but by the early 19th century the only settlement they could claim was the island of Ste. Marie.
  • 1810-1828 - Radama I, a Merina king who has help from the British, unifies most of the country save for the Sakalava kingdom in the far west and far south. Radama opens the country to English missionaries who spread Christianity throughout the island and transcribed Malagasy to a written language. Under his reign, a miniature Industrial Revolution brings induatry to the island.
  • 1828-1861 - Radama I is succeeded by his widow Ranavalona I, who terrorizes the country for 33 years by persecuting Christians, evicting foreigners, executing political rivals, and reviving the custom of killing babies born un unlucky days.
  • 1846 - combined French and English force attacks Tamatave but fails to make much headway
  • Ranavalona I's son Radama II restores contact with the outside world and ends the persecution of Christians.
  • 1863 - Radama II is assassinated
  • 1865 & 1868 - treaties are signed with England and France respectively
  • 1883-1885 - Franco-Malagasy War results in December 17, 1885 peace agreement that gives France a greater influence in the affairs of Madagascar
  • 1890 - The British recognize a French protectorate over Madagascar in exchange for concessions in Zanzibar.
  • December 1894 - France invades Madagascar and takes the captial Tana on October 1, 1895. France loses only 20 men in battle during the campaign but more than 6,000 to disease.
  • 1896 - France annexes Madagascar as a colony and later unifies the country under a single government.
  • 1918 - the first of several uprisings against French rule
  • 1947 - The French crush rebellion lead by Jean Ralaimongo. Up to 80,000 Malagasy are killed.
  • June 26, 1960 - Madagascar gains independence
  • 1975 - After a three years of political instability, Didier Ratsiraka takes control and establishes a quasi-Maxist state by nationalizing institutions, launching social and economic reforms, and cultivating friendships with Communist states. The economy begins a sustained decline that will last into the 1990s.
  • 1991 - After an economic collapse, Malagasy take to the streets and demand a new government
  • 1993 - Ratsiraka is ousted and replaced with Albert Zafy who wins democratic elections and forms the Thrid Republic. Zafy later runs into trouble by continually breaching the constitution and is impeached by the National Assembly.
  • 1997 - Ratsiraka is voted back into power and is successful in restoring some of his dictatorial powers.
  • 2001 - Marc Ravalomanana, mayor of Tana, is elected president with 52% of the vote. Ratsiraka refuses to accept the result and a political snafu ensues. Ratsiraka sets up a a rival government in his home town of Toasmasina and his supporters lay seige to Antananarivo, blocking roads and dynamiting bridges. The population in Tana suffered greatly -- prices for food and vital supplies soared, thousands of jobs were lost, businesses went under, the poor starved. After a court monitored recount reaffirmed that Ravalomanana was indeed the victor, the army lent its support and other nations recognized the elected president's government. Ratsiraka fled in exile to France in July 2002.
  • 2006 - Marc Ravalomanana was re-elected for a second term.
  • 2009 - President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted in March 2009 during an uprising led by Andry Rajoelina, then-mayor of Antananarivo. Rajoelina has since ushered in a Fourth Republic and rules Madagascar as the President of the High Transitional Authority without recognition from the international community.


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