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The Adoption of Autarky in Imperial Madagascar, 1820–18351

  • Gwyn Campbell (a1)

Traditionally, historians have viewed Queen Ranavalona I as being responsible for inaugurating an autarkic policy in Madagascar. Her expulsion of most foreigners from the country in 1835 is seen primarily as a reflection of her conservative and xenophobic attitudes. In this she is contrasted with her predecessor, Radama I, who is viewed as an enlightened and progressive monarch who, through wise domestic policies and an alliance with the British on Mauritius from 1817, built up an economically sound and prosperous empire. This paper challenges the traditional interpretation, arguing that in fact the Merina economy was in a dire condition from the second decade of the nineteenth century because the slave exports upon which it heavily depended were severely restricted in consequence of the British takeover of the Mascarenes. The subsequent alliance between Britain and Imerina totally prohibited slave exports. However, Radama I looked to Mauritius and British aid to promote legitimate exports and to help impose Merina rule over all Madagascar. Autarkic policies were initiated by Radama I in 1825–6 as a reaction against the failure of the British alliance to produce the anticipated results, and against the free trade imperialism that accompanied it. Convinced by 1825 that the Mauritius government meant to subordinate Imerina both economically and politically to British imperial interests, he reneged on the British treaty and adopted a policy designed to promote rapid economic growth within an independent island empire. Ranavalona I, far from implementing irrational and xenophobic policies, extended her predecessor's autarkic policies in a rational and systematic manner, and for precisely the same ends.

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2 Ellis, W., History of Madagascar (London, 1838), II, 403.

3 Ibid, 11, 411, 416.

4 Deschamps, H., Histoire de Madagascar (Paris, 1972), 151.

5 Ibid, 163.

6 Ibid, 16; Ellis, History of Madagascar, ii, 486.

7 Ayache, Simon, ‘Esquisse pour le portrait d'une reine: Ranavalona Iere’, Omaly sy Anio, 1–11 (1975), 251–70;Brown, M., ‘Ranavalona I and the missionaries, 1828–1840’, Omaly sy Anio, V–VI (1977), 107–39.

8 Valette, Jean, ‘Radama I, the Unification of Madagascar and the Modernisation of Imerina (1810–1828)’, in Kent, R. (ed.), Madagascar in History (Berkeley, 1979), 194;Campbell, Gwyn, ‘The monetary and financial crisis of the Merina Empire, 1810–1826’, The South African Journal of Economic History, i, i (1986), 99118.

9 Valette, Jean, Études sur le régne de Radama I (Tananarive, 1962);Munthe, Ludvig, Ayache, Simon, and Ravoajanahary, Charles, ‘Radama I et les Anglais. Les négotiations de 1817 d'après les sources malgaches (“sorabe” inédits)’, Omaiy sy Anio, III–IV (1976).

10 Toussaint, Auguste, Histoire des îles Mascareignes (Paris, 1972), 194–9.

11 Sage, Le, ‘Mission to Madagascar’ (1816), CO 167/34, 121–2;Hastie, James, ‘Diary’ (1817), CO 167/34, 150;Toussaint, A., La route des îles – contribution à l'histoire maritime des Mascareignes (Paris, 1967);Filliot, J. M., La traite des esciaves vers les Mascareignes (Paris, 1974);Campbell, G., ‘Madagascar and the slave trade, 1810–1895’, J. Afr. Hist., XXII (1981), 203–8;Idem, ‘The role of the London Missionary Society in the rise of the Merina Empire, 1810–1861’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Wales, 1985), ch. 2.

12 Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, ch. 4;Munthe et al., ‘Radama I et les Anglais’, 12, 41.

13 Farquhar, ‘Minute’ on Madagascar (Port Louis, Aug. 1822), CO 167/63;Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 1, 115.

14 RH in Munthe et al., ‘Radama I et les Anglais’, 33.

15 Until 1820 slaves constituted Imerina's sole export and were paid for almost entirely in cash. Slave exports fell from an estimated 2,000 per annum in 1800 to an average of 500 per annum thereafter until the Britanno–Merina treaty of 1820. Contemporary accounts indicate that slave supplies were constant throughout this period due to captives from Radama I's expansionist wars: see Campbell, ‘Madagascar and the Slave Trade’, 206, 208;Idem, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 174–6, 189–90.

16 Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 172–7;Duhaut-Cilly, ‘Notices sur le royaume d'Emirne, sur la capitale de Tananarivou et sur le gouvernement de Rhadama’ (1825), in Valette, J., ‘Deux documents franais sur Madagascar en 1825; les rapports Duhaut-Cilly et Frére’, BAM, xlvl, i–ii (1968), 238–9.

17 Farquhar, ‘Minute’ on Madagascar (1822), CO 167/63; ‘Expenses incurred by the Government on Mauritius on account of Madagascar’, in House of Commons, Parliamentary Papers, 26 (1828), 72–82;Farquhar to Earl Bathurst, Port Louis, 29 July 1822, CO 167/63;Campbell, ‘Madagascar and the Slave Trade’, 206, 208.

18 Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1817), CO 167/34, 188;Idem., ‘Diary’ (1820), CO 167/50, 472.

19 Jones and Grifliths to LMS, Antananarivo, 2 June 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. 1 J.A;Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1817), 143, 148, 188;Idem, ‘Diary’ (1820), 484, 493, 496; Idem, ‘Diary’ (1822), CO 167/63; Hastie to Barry, Antananarivo, 22 April 1824, CO 167/78, pt. I, 43;Mayeur, ‘Voyage au pays d'ancove, autrement dit des hovas ou Anboilamba dans l'intérieur des terres, Isle de Madagascar’ (1777), EL, Add. 18128, 177–80;Duhaut-Cilly, ‘Notice sur le royaume d'Emirne’ 238–9;Grandidier, A., ‘Property among the Malagasy’ (trans. J. Sibree), AAMM, xxii (1898), 228, 230.

20 Radama I to Farquhar, Antananarivo, 13 May 1823, CO 167/66.

21 Hugon, ‘Aperçu de mon dernier voyage à ancova de l'an 1808’, BL, Add. 18137, II;Sage, Le, ‘Mission’ (1816), 102;Oliver, S. P., Madagascar: An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Island and its former Dependencies (London, 1886), 1, 450, and 11, 3;A. et Grandidier, G., Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar, iv, iv (1928), 68, 30–9.

22 Mayeur, ‘Voyage au pays d'ancove, par le pays d'ancaye autrement dit des Baizangouzangoux’ (1785), 224, BL, Add. 18128;Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1817), 187;Grandidier, , Histoire, iv, iv (1928), 37, ii.

23 Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1817), 160;see also Grandidier, , Histoire, IV, iv (1928), 35, 3, 60–1.

24 Oliver, Madagascar, i, 285, 451–2;Sibree, J., A Naturalist in Madagascar (London, 1915), 53;Robequain, R., Madagascar et les bases dispersées de l'union française (Paris, 1958), 50–1.

25 Sémerville, ‘Souvenirs de Sainte-Marie’ in Decary, Raymond, ‘Le voyage du lieutenant de Vaisseau de Sémerville à l'île Sainte-Marie en 1824’, BAM, XVI (1933), 50–1;Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1822), CO 167/63;Idem, ‘Diary’ (1822–23), CO 167/66.

26 Hastie ‘Extract’ in ‘Report of the Examination of the Schools’ (17 March 1825), SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. 2 J.A;Grandidier, , Histoire, iv, i (1908), 256.

27 Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1817), 128;Jones and Griffiths to LMS (nd), SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 1, F. 5 J.A;Canham to Burder, Ifenoarivo, 5 Nov. 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. 1 J.C; RH, 16–17;Callet, F., Histoire des Rois (Tananarive, 1974), II–IV, 927.

28 Jones and Griffiths to LMS (nd), SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 1, F. 5 J.A;Rowlands to Burder, Antananarivo 17 June 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. 1 J.B;Ellis, W., Three Visits to Madagascar during the years 1853–1854–1856 (London, 1859), 341–2;Jeffreys, Keturah, The Widowed Missionary's Journal (Southampton, 1827), 173–6.

29 Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1817);Idem, ‘Diary‘ (1820); Canham to Burder, Ifenoarivo, Nov. 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. I F. i J. C;Oliver, Madagascar, 1, 307, 318–9;Grandidier, , Histoire, IV, iv (1928),Campbell, Gwyn, ‘Labour and the transport problem in Imperial Madagascar, 1810’, J. Afr. Hist., XXI (1980), 341–56.

30 Jones and Griffiths to LMS (May 1823), SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. I F. 5 J.A;Idem to Burder, Antananarivo, 16 Dec. 1825, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. 2 J.C; Rowlands to Jones and Griffiths, Amparibe, 15 May 1827, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. J. A;‘Extracts of the Minutes of the Madagascar Mission’ (4 May-8 July 1829), SOAS/LMS MI L, Bx. F. J.A;Oliver, Madagascar, II, 82, 91;Ellis, History of Madagascar, I, 311–13;Chapus, G. S., ‘Quatre-vingts années d'influences européennes en Imerina (1815–1895)’, BAM ns. 8 (1925), 80.

31 Hastie, ‘Report on Missionary Instruction in Ovah’ (17 March 1824), and Idem, ‘Report on the Schools superintended by the Missionaries at Tananarive’ (19 April 1824), CO 167/78, pt. II; see also Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 186;for West African comparisons of the relative costs of low and high technology cloth production see Bray, J., ‘The economics of traditional cloth production in Iseyin, Nigeria’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, XVII (1969), and Johnson, M., ‘Technology, Competition and African Crafts’, in Dewey, C. and Hopkins, A. G. (eds.), The Imperial Impact: Studies in the Economic History of Africa and India (London, 1978).

32 RH, 96–7;RA, 297, 300 Barry to Hastie, Port Louis, 12 May 1823, CO 167/77;Freeman to Burder, Antananarivo, 23 Oct. 1827, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F.

33 RH, 6–7;Jones and Griffiths to LMS, Antananarivo, 2 June 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Box. 2 F. I J.A;Rowlands to Burder, Antananarivo, 17 June 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. I J.B;Rowlands to LMS, Antsahadinta, 13 June 1826, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. I J.A;Jones and Griffiths to Burder, Antananarivo, 30 May 1827, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. J.A.

34 Jones and Griffiths to LMS, Antananarivo, 2 June 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. I J.A.

35 Burder, Canhamto, Ifenoarivo, 5 Nov. 1824, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. I J.D;see also Campbell, ‘Role of the LMS’, 171–188.

36 Hastie (1815), quoted in Grandidier, , Histoire iv, V (1928), 162; see also Ibid, 104 Oliver, Madagascar, II, 92–3.

37 Duhaut-Cilly, ‘Notice sur le royaume d'Emirne’, 237.

38 Louis Blancard to Governor of Mauritius, in Chapus, G. S. and Mondain, G., ‘Un chapitre inconnu: des rapports de Maurice et de Madagascar’, BAM, XXX (1951–2), 117;see also Duhaut-Cilly, ‘Notice’, 238–9.

39 Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1820);Idem to Barry, Antananarivo, 22 April 1824, CO 167/77; Oliver, Madagascar, II, 160;Grandidier, , Histoire, IV, I (1908), 371;Bojer, , ‘Journal’, in Valette, J. (ed.), ‘L'Imerina en 1822–3825 d'après les journaux de Bojer et d'Hilsenburg’, extrait du Bulletin de Madagascar (avril–mai, 1963), 23;Ellis, History of Madagascar, I, 117;Cameron, James, ‘Recollections of Mission Life in Madagascar in the early days of the LMS Mission’ (Antananarivo, 20 10. 1874), 24–6.

40 Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 1, 103–9.

41 Farquhar to Hastie, Mauritius, 30 April 1822, CO 267/34.

42 Ibid.

43 Farquhar, (1822) in A Resident, Madagascar Past and Present (London, 1847), 196, 298;Farquhar to Bathurst, Port Louis, 20 May 1823, and Darling to Bathurst, Mauritius, 16 June 1823, CO 167/66;for the imperial ambitions of Radama I see Tyerman, D. and Bennet, J., Journal of Voyages and Travels, 1821–1829 (ed. Montgomery, J.), II (London, 1832), 532;RH, 79–95, 220;Hastie, ‘Diary’ (1817);Munthe, al., ‘Radama let les Anglais’, 9–204;Deschamps, Histoire de Madagascar, 151.

44 J. Ren‘Correspondance de Jean Renéa Sir R. T. Farquhar, 83;Decary, R., ‘Documents historiques relatifs a l'établissement franaise de Sainte-Marie sous Ia restoration’, BAM, XIII (1930), 65;RA, 295;Ellis, , History of Madagascar, I, 377–8;Idem, Madagascar Revisited (London, 1867), 247–8; copies of correspondence between Freeman and Johns and Ranavalona I, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. F. J. C, and Bx. F. J. D;Rabary, , Ny Daty Malaza, I (Tananarive, 1930), 23, 26–7;Callet, Histoire des Rois, III–IV, 928;Campbell, ‘Labour and the Transport Problem’, 341–3.

45 Mayeur, ‘Voyage dans le nord de Madagascar’ (1775), BL, Add. 18128, 60–3;Idem, ‘Voyage au pays d'ancove’ (1777), 22; Idem, ‘Réflexions sur l'établissement et l'amélioration du commerce de Madagascar’ (1800), BL, Add. 18136; Morice, ‘Mémoire sur Ia côte oriental d'Afrique’ (Isle de France, 15 juin 1777), BL, Add. 18126, 107–13;[Jouette], ‘Mémoire sur Madagascar’ (1 juin 1806), BL, Add. 18135;Hugon, ‘Aperçu’ (1806), 15, 17, 22;Grandidier, Histoire, iV, vi (1928), 336;Delivré, ‘Histoire des rois, 224.

46 Munthe et at., ‘Radama I et les Anglais’, 56;Leminier, N., ‘Notes sur une excursion faite dans l'intérieur de l'île de Madagascar en 1825’, Bulletin de Madagascar, 292 (1970), 797;Canham to Burder, Ifenoarivo, 3 Oct. 1827, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F.4 J. C;Lyall, Robert, ‘Journal’ (edit. Chapus, G. S. et Mondain, G.) in l'Académie Malgache, Collection de documents concernant Madagascar et les pays voisins, 5 (Tananarive, 1954), 1113, 33;Jones and Griffiths to LMS, Antananarivo, Nov. 1826, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. J.D.

47 Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 189–91, 319.

48 Valette, J., ‘Un plan de développement de Madagascar. Le projet Bergsten’ (1825), BAM, XLIV, ii (1966),Robequain, C., ‘Une capitale montagnarde en pays tropical: Tananarive’, Revue de geographie alpine, XXXVII (1949), 287.

49 Chapus et Mondain, ‘Un chapitre inconnu’, 118.

50 Mondain et Chapus, ‘Journal de Robert Lyall’, 9–11;Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 206–12.

51 Lyall, ‘Journal’, 89;Chapus et Mondain, ‘Un chapitre inconnu’, 127–8;RA, 327–30, 378–85, 435–6, 458–9;Thompson, A., ‘The role of firearms and the development of military techniques in Merina warfare c. 1785–1828’, Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer, LXI, 224 (1974), 422.

52 Raombana, , ‘Manuscrit écrit a Tananarive, 1853–1854’ (trans. Radley, J.), BAM, XIII (1930), 1011;Grandidier, , Histoire, iv, IV (1928), III, 17–8, 136, 297–9.

53 Tentor de Ravis, ‘Projet de système de conquête, colonisation et civilisation de l'âile de Madagascar’, St Denis, i aoûit 1852, AHH, Carton dossier 11e;Robequain, ‘Une capitale montagnarde’, 288;Grandidier, , Histoire, IV, iv (1928), 70, 228.

54 Canham to Burder, Ifenoarivo, 13 Dec. 1825, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. 2 J.C:Griffiths, , Hanes Madagascar (Machynlleth, 1843), 38;Oliver, Madagascar, 11, 84–5;Grandidier, , Histoire, iv, IV (1928), 133–4.

55 Chick to Burder, Antananarivo, 16 Dec. 1825, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. 2 J.C;Ibid, 6 June 1826, SOAS/LMS MIL, Bx. 2 F. J.A; Mondain et Chapus, ‘Journal de Robert Lyall’, 171;Callet, , Histoire, v (Antananarivo, 1978), 10621063; 1066Chapus, , ‘Quatre-vingts années dinfluence europáennes en Imerina, 1815–1895’, BAM, viii (1925), 201–2;Ellis, Three Visits, 262–3;Oliver, Madagascar, 11, 91.

56 Robin to Missionaries, 24 Jan.– 14 Feb. 1827;Rowlands to Jones and Griffiths, Amparibe, 15 May 1827;Cummins to Jones and Griffiths, Amparibe, 17 May 1827;Cameron to J. & G. Brighton, 19 may 1827;Jones and Grifliths to Burder, Antananarivo, 30 May 1827;Cameron to Arundel, 1 May 1827, SOAS/LMS MIL Bx. 2 F. J.A.

57 Campbell, ‘Role of the London Missionary Society’, 206–7, 259–62.

58 Chapus et Mondain, ‘Un chapitre inconnu’, 119–20, 522–4.

1 I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy whose grants enabled me to complete much of the research undertaken for this paper.

The following abbreviations are used throughout this article: AAMM = Antananarivo Annual and Madagascar Magazine (Journal of the London Missionary Society in Madagascar); AHH = Archives historiques de la vice-province, Société de Jésus, Antananarivo; ANM = Archives Nationales de Madagascar; BAM = Bulletin de l'Académie Malgache; BL = British Library; CO = Colonial Office series in the Public Record Office, London; RA/RH = Raombana ‘Annales’ and ‘Histoires’ (1853) in the Archives of the Académic Malgache, Antananarivo; SOAS/LMS-MIL = Madagascar Incoming Letters – Archives of the London Missionary Society, School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

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