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Sacred Acquisition: Andrianampoinimerina at Ambohimanga, 1777–1790

  • Gerald M. Berg (a1)


Between 1775 and 1810 Andrianampoinimerina laid the foundations of the Merina state which in subsequent decades was to rule most of Madagascar. Though various circumstances such as the development of irrigated riziculture and slavery, the monopoly of profits and of muskets from coastal trade, and the manipulation of ritual, contributed in part to the nascent monarchy's strength, they equally touched other political formations within Imerina and elsewhere and therefore do not explain why Andrianampoinimerina's organization endured while others did not. The distinctiveness of Andrianampoinimerina's case is revealed by returning to particular events, those culminating in his first successful attempt to rule at Ambohimanga in 1783. His success depended upon exploiting both good luck and pervasive kinship values which recognized individual financial prowess. Thus the resurgent trade with the east coast did not redefine Merina kinship. Rather, trade provided an expanded arena of economic activity in which Andrianampoinimerina demonstrated superior skill at kinship politics, expanding his kin group and assuming the role of sole mediator between the residents of Ambohimanga and their ancestors.



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* I wish to thank Claudia Chang, Marc Schloss, Maurice Bloch, Gillian FeeleyHarnik, Raymond Kent, Henry T. Wright, Joseph C. Miller and Cecilia Albin for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Research for this paper was made possible by generous grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Sweet Briar College Faculty Grants Committee. A version of this paper was read on 28 November 1986 at a conference on ‘Pre-Colonial Madagascar’ in London sponsored by the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Museum of Mankind.

1 The best summary of Malagasy history and culture for the non-malgachisant is Mack, John, Madagascar. Island of Ancestors (London, 1986). For recent works on early Imerina see Berg, Gerald M., ‘Riziculture and the founding of monarchy in Imerina’, J. Afr. Hist. XXII (1981) 289308;‘Royal Authority and the Protector System in Nineteenth Century Imerina’, in Kent, R. (ed.), Madagascar in History (Albany, 1979), 102–22, and Kottak, C. P. et al. (eds), Madagascar. Society and History (Durham, 1986), Pp. 175–92;The sacred musket. Tactics, technology, and power in eighteenth-century Madagascar’, Comp. Studies in Society and Hist. XXVII, 2 (1985), 261–79;Bloch, Maurice, ‘The Disconnection between Power and Rank as a Process’, in Friedman, J. and Rowlands, M. (eds), The Evolution of Social Systems (London, 1977), 303–40;Delivré, Alain, L'histoire des rois d'Imerina (Paris, 1974);Deschamps, Hubert, ‘Andrianampoinimerina ou la raison d'Etat au service de l'unité malgache’, in Afrique, Jeune (ed), Les Africains, ii (Paris, 1977), 7389;Isnard, Hildebert, ‘Les bases géographiques de la monarchie Hova’, in Eventail de l'histoire vivante. Hommage à Lucien Febvre, I (Paris, 1953), 195206;Kent, Raymond K., Early Kingdoms in Madagascar (New York, 1970), 205–42;Lejamble, G., ‘Les fondements du pouvoir royal en Imerina’, Bull. de Madagascar, xxii, no. 311 (1972), 349–67.

2 Marks, Shula and Rathbone, Richard, ‘The history of the family in Africa’, J. Afr. Hist. XXIV, 2 (1983), 152–3, and Murray Last, as quoted ibid., 153.

3 MacGaffey, Wyatt, ‘Lineage structure, marriage and the family amongst the Central Bantu’, J. Afr. Hist., XXIV, 2 (1983), 176.

4 MacGaffey, ‘Lineage…’, 179, 185. Merina historical concepts regarding genealogy are treated in Berg, ‘The myth of racial strife and Merina king lists’, History in Africa, IV (1977), 1–30; and Berg, , ‘Some Words about Merina Historical Texts’, in Miller, Joseph C. (ed), The African Past Speaks (Folkestone, 1980), 221–39.

5 Hugon, B., ‘Appercu demon dernier voyage à Ancôva de l'an 1808’, British Library [henceforth BL], Add. MSS. 18137, fol. 16r–16v.

6 Mayeur, Nicolas, ‘Voyage au pays d'Ancove, autrement dit des Hovas ou Amboilambes en janv. 1777’, BL Add. MSS., 18128 fols. 93v–94r.

7 Raombana, , Histoires (18531856), ed. Ayache, S. (Fianarantsoa, 1980), 353, 447, 454.

8 See Berg, ‘Royal Authority…’, passim; and Bloch, M., From Blessing to Violence (Cambridge, 1986), 113–56.

9 Berg, ‘Riziculture…’ 291–5;Tantara fly Andriana eto Madagaskara, ed. Callet, Francois, first edition 1873–1902 (Antananarivo, 1908) [henceforth TA], 296–7, 405; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany Madagascar’ (c. 1875–80), Archives nationales de la République démocratique malgache, S.S. 22, fols. 100v, 118v–121v; Rainitovo, , Tantaran'ny Malagasy Manantolo (Antananarivo, 1930), 11, 343–5; Lt. Duhautcilly, ‘Notice sur le Royaume d'Emirne’, (1825), Archives nationales de France, Section Outremèr, Madagascar, 11/25, pp. 3–4; Cheffaud, M., ‘Notes sur la chronologie des rois d'Imerina’, Bull. de l'Acad. malgache XIX (1936), 45;Delivré L'histoire…, 253;Lejamble, G., ‘Les fondements…’, 359;Ellis, William, History of Madagascar (London, 1838), 11, 121–2.

10 Mayeur, N., ‘Voyage…1777’, fols. 87v, 92r–94r.

11 Mayeur, ‘Voyage au pays d'Ancove par le pays d'Ancaye, 1785’, BL Add. MS. 18128, fols. 107v–108v, 112r; Raombana, Histoires, 443.

12 Mayeur, ‘Voyage… 1785’, fol. 107r; Capt.Jourdain, , ‘Notice sur les Ovas, 1830’, Nouv. Ann. des Voyages, 3e sér., XXIV (1839), 7;Hébert, J. C., ‘Note sur Madagascar du traitant Jacques La Salle’, Omaly sy Anio, XI (1980), 138–9; TA, 421–33, 429, 462, 936–43;Rainitovo, Tantaran'…11, 365–8; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24, fols. 25r–38r;Grandidier, A. (ed.), ‘Manuscrits des Ombiasy’, 2 vols. Musée de L'Homme, Fonds malgache, 1 (18641870), 268, 270–8; Raombana, Histoires, 333–55;Ellis, William, History…11, 122–3.

13 TA, p. 493; Mayeur, ‘Voyage…1785’, fol. 110r; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24, fols. 31r–33r.

14 Delivré, L'histoire, 163–5; Berg, ‘Some words…’, 228–230. See also Valeri, Valerio, ‘The Hawaiian legend of “Umi”’, in Hooper, A. and Huntsman, J. (eds), Transformations of Polynesian Culture (Auckland, 1985) 87, which tells of Hawaiian kings who upon ascending to the throne recognize or deny the genealogical claims of his men. I am indebted to Susan McKinnon for this reference.

15 TA, 405, 421–4, 937; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24, fols. 20v, 25r; Raombana, Histoires, 353–4; Rainitovo, Tantaran'…, 11 365–7;Razafindramanta, , ‘Andrianampoinimerina’, Bull. mens. du Service de l'Enseignement [Antananarivo], 13e année, no. 1 (01. 1911), 25, 5;Grandidier (ed.), ‘Manuscrits…’, 268;Jones, David, (ed.), ‘Ancestry of the Kings of Imerina’, MS. 1836, 7–8;Ellis, William, History…, 11, 116, 121; Mayeur, ‘Voyage… 1777’, fols. 93v–94r;Guillain, C., Documents sur l'histoire, la géographie, et le commerce de la partie occidentale de Madagascar (Paris, 1845), 40–4.

16 TA, 422, 425, 937: ‘…raha ny tontolo andro an'Andrianjafy ary ny farany andRamboasalama’; Rainaridriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24, fol. 20v; Razafindramanta, ‘Andrianampoinimerina’, 25, 5; Rainitovo, Tantaran’…, 11, 378.

17 Lejamble, ‘Les fondements…’, 357–60; Delivré, L'histoire…, 258–60.

18 TA, 400; Rainitovo, Tantaran'…, 11, 360; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24, fol. 18v. Razafindramanta, ‘Andrianampoinimerina’, 25, 4;Andriamiaramanjaka’, Firaketana ny Zavatra malagasy, no. 37 (1940), 64–5;Kaloy’, Firaketana…, no. 183 (1956), 60;Raombana, Histoires, 334–6, 374;Ramilison, E., Ny loharan' ny Andriana nanjaka teto Imerina (1952), II, 114;Ellis, W., History…, 11, 116, 122–3;Mayeur, ‘Voyage… 1785’, fol. 107r; Duhautcilly, ‘Notice… 1825’, 3; Lars Vig, Manuscript notebooks (c. 1875–89), Archives Norske Misjionsskolen, Madagassisk Afguder, RUM C., Avd. III–I, nos 10,275–10,284, bilingual text edited and translated Domenichini, J.-P., Histoire des Palladium d'Imerina, Musée d'Art et d'Archéologie de l'Université de Madagascar, Travaux et Documents, VIII (1971), 44, 89;Maizac, Pr., ‘Ordre de succession au trône chez les Hova’, Notes, Reconnaissances, et Explorations [Antananarivo], VI, 4 (1900), 610–11.

19 Berg, ‘Riziculture…’, 305–7, and see below, p. 12.

20 Delivré, L'histoire…, 251–5, 260–2; Lejamble, ‘Fondements…’, 358–9; and Ottino, Paul, L'ancienne succession dynastique malgache’, in Raison-Jourde, F. (ed.), Les souverains de Madagascar (Paris, 1983), 244–6.

21 TA, 379, 400; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24, fols. 19r–20r; Mayeur, ‘Voyage… 1777’, fols. 93v–94r. See also Delivré, L'histoire, 254–55, 258–9, 265; Jones, ‘Ancestry…’, 7–8; and Ellis, History7…, 116, 122. Ellis received his information from a son of Andriambelomasina, Andriamahery, who in 1829 was the guardian of Ramahavaly, one of the principal talismans of Imerina. See also Firaketana…, no. 37 (1940), 107 and Raombana, Histoires, 335–6.

22 TA, 421–5, 936–8; Mayeur, ‘Voyage…1777’, fols. 93r–94r.

23 Mayeur, ‘Voyage…1785’, fol. 107r; TA, 425–9.

24 Mayeur, ‘Voyage…1777’, fol. 90r–91v.

25 TA, 938.

26 On Andrianampoinimerina's foreign trading contacts see Razifindramanta, ‘Andrianampoinimerina’, 25–6; Raombana, Histoires, 305–9, 375;Munthe, Ludvig, ‘Le manuscrit arabico-malgache, HB-4 à Paris’, Acta Orientalia ‘Copenhagen’, XXXIX (1978), 135, 168;Mayeur, ‘Voyage… 1777’, fol. 89v; Mayeur, ‘Voyage… 1785’, fols. 107v–108v;de la Salle, Jacques, ‘Mémoire sur Madagascar’ [1797], Notes, Reconnaissances, et Explorations, III (1898), 577;Dumaine, ‘Voyage fait au pays d'Ancaye en 1790’, BL, Add. MSS. 18128, fols. 136r-137r.

27 On Ratsimilaho and the disorder of the 1750s see Mayeur, , ‘Histoire de Ratsimilahoe’ [1806], BL, Add. MSS. 18129, fols. 82r–143v; Anon., ‘Fragment d'un vieux mémoire’ [c. 1771], BL, Add. MSS. 18130, fols. 60r–67v, 72v–77r, 85r; and Berg, , ‘The sacred musket’, Comp. Studies in Society and History, XXVII/I (1985), 265–7. On overseas trading establishments on the east coast for the period 1768 to 1793, see Archives nationales de France, série C5A; Ellis, William, History…, 11, 66–72;Filliot, J. M., La traite des esciaves vers les Mascareignes au XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1974), 62–5.

28 Bloch, Maurice, Placing the Dead (London, 1971), esp. 108–11;Bloch, , From Blessing to Violence (Cambridge, 1986), 3439; and discussions at the Wenner-Gren Symposium no. 83, ‘Human Adjustment in Time and Space in Madagascar’, Burg Wartenstein, Austria, Aug., 1979.

29 Berg, ‘Some words…’, 227–30; Delivré, L'histoire…, 262.

30 I am indebted to Maurice Bloch for clarifying this point.

31 Delivré, L'histoire…, 163–5.

32 Raombana, Histoires, 353, 419, 427, 447, 454, 459; and Ayache, Simon, Roambana. L'historien (Fianarantsoa, 1975) 7595, 107–9.

33 Berg, ‘The sacred musket’, 272–3;Bloch, Maurice, ‘The disconnection between power and rank as a process’, Archives europ7eacute;ennes de sociologie, XVII, I (1977), 124–9. For detailed descriptions of similar prestations, see Berg, G., ‘Royal authority…’.

34 TA, 425–6, 429, 939; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24 fols. 25r–27v; and Rainitovo, Tantaran'ny…, 11, 365–8.

35 TA, 493: ‘ …ary izao tsy lafintany intsony fa efa lafinkavana’.

36 TA, 425–6.

37 Berg, ‘The sacred musket’, 273; Sibree to Mullens (21 Oct. 1870), London Missionary Society, Letters Incoming, IX/2/C; Vig, Manuscripts…, 52 123, 44 89; and ‘Kelimalaza’, Firaketana…, no. 186 (1957), 62–67.

38 See Bloch, Maurice, ‘Almost eating the ancestors’, Man, xx (1986), 639–40.

39 Berg, Gerald M., ‘Historical Traditions and the Foundations of Monarchy in Imerina’ (Univ. of California, Ph.D. dissertation, 1975), 194205.

40 TA, 145 and Rabetrano, ‘Ny Tantarany Razan Andriana ‘1844’’, in Rainandriamampandry, Livret, Archives de la république démocratique malgache, PP fols. 31v–32r.

41 TA, 65–6, 145–7, 401;Grifliths, David, Journal (18 January-19 July 1822), entry of 19 June, London Missionary Society, Journals, ¼.

42 For a symbolic analysis of the jaka presentation, see Bloch, Maurice, ‘Almost eating the ancestors’, passim.

43 TA, 432; 433 (‘ …atao ko tsy very tantara mandrakizay hianareo’), 433 (‘ …Izaho no tafoany Merina ny hasina’), 434: ‘…(taritaraina hianareo’).

44 TA, 433, 439.

45 TA, 305, 433, 434, n 1.

46 TA, 436–7.

47 Such was the case regarding the guardians of the principal talismans of Imerina. See Berg, ‘Royal authorit…’, 103–13.

48 TA, 303–5, 438–40, 542, 608.

49 TA (1st ed., 1873), 162, notes 1 and 3.

50 TA, 437–9.

51 This point is fully elaborated in Berg, ‘The sacred musket’, 261–79.

52 See Raombana, Histoires, 226–34, 275, 296–302, 305–309.

53 TA, 423, 938.

54 Raombana, Histoires, 289, 322; TA, 426, 428, 437, 940.

55 TA, 940–1.

56 TA, 424, 493.

57 TA, 216: ‘…nasain'ny sampy atao aminy ny basy’. See also Berg, ‘The Sacred Musket’, 274–8.

58 Razafindramanta, ‘Andrianampoinimerina’, relates that the notables of the Tanala and Sihanaka on the east coast appealed many times to his mother to return him (25 4). Tanala would arrive at Ambohimanga to give the child presents (25 5) and were eventually prohibited from entering the area for fear that they would kidnap young Ramboasalama (26 1). For other indications of his foreign status, see Roambana, Histoires, 374; Rainandriamampandry, ‘Tantarany…’, SS 24, fol. 18v; and ‘Kaloy’, Firaketana…no. 37 (1940), 64–5.

59 Raombana, Histoires, 362–3, 454.

60 Hugon, ‘Aperçu…’, fol. 16r–16v. See also Coroller's description quoted in Ellis, William, History…11, 124–5.


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