Assassination of Radama II 1863

[ 1863 ]

The most powerful of Madagascar's kingdoms--the one that eventually established hegemony over a great portion of the island--was that developed by the Merina ethnic group. Before the Merina emerged as the dominant political power on the island in the nineteenth century, they alternated between periods of political unity and periods in which the kingdom separated into smaller political units. The location of the Merina in the central highlands afforded them some protection from the ravages of warfare that recurred among the coastal kingdoms. The distinction, recognized both locally and internationally, between the central highlanders (the Merina) and the côtiers (inhabitants of the coastal areas) would soon exert a major impact on Madagascar's political system. Organized like the coastal kingdoms in a hierarchy of nobles, commoners, and slaves, the Merina developed a unique political institution known as the fokonolona (village council). Through the fokonolona, village elders and other local notables were able to enact regulations and exert a measure of local control in such matters as public works and security...

During the reign of Radama II (r. 1861-63), the pendulum once again swung toward modernization and cordial relations with Western nations, particularly France. Radama II made a treaty of perpetual friendship with France, but his brief rule ended with his assassination by a group of nobles alarmed by his pro-French stance. He was succeeded by his widow, who ruled until 1868, during which time she annulled the treaty with France and the charter of Laborde's company.

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