History of Madagascar: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Madagascar is an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Come learn about this country, the people who first lived there, why French is one of the languages spoken there, and some other interesting facts about Madagascar's history.

The Early People of Madagascar

Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean that formed about 165 million years ago when it broke off the continent of Africa.

Madagascar map
Madagascar map

People did not live in Madagascar for a long time. The first people to land and settle in Madagascar were a small group of Asians and Africans. They arrived between about 700 and 800 A.D.

As the number of people in Madagascar grew, they migrated, or moved around the island, forming separate groups.

More Explorers and Settlers Arrive

In 1500, sailors from Portugal arrived and found small towns along the coast in Madagascar. Afro-Arabs also arrived sometime between 1507 and 1513. The Portuguese often attacked the Afro-Arab Muslim settlements in order to get rid of them.

Madagascar coast
Madagascar coast

In 1642, the French also moved in. By the 1700s, they had founded settlements of their own, where they became successful traders.

Kingdom of Madagascar

The British didn't want the French to establish more settlements, so they became friends with a Madagascar leader named Radama I. They wanted him to stop the French so they helped him and gave him the title of 'King of Madagascar.'

By 1817, Radama I had taken control of most of Madagascar's east coast and other parts of the island. The French only had a small island off the coast that they controlled.

Radama II, who was Radama I's son, eventually took over as leader, but was kicked out of power in 1863 by the leaders of another kingdom in Madagascar called the Merina.

The Merina leaders controlled most of the island of Madagascar, but the French had other plans and wanted Madagascar for themselves. They fought in the Franco-Merina war to try and get control of the island.

The French Return

By 1895, French troops were in Madagascar. They took control and it became a French protectorate, which means they controlled the island, protecting it.

Although some people in Madagascar still didn't want to be controlled by France and fought back, the French kept control of the island and stopped the rebellions. They also made a rule that the French language had to be taught in schools, which is why French is one of the official languages of Madagascar today.

In 1946, Madagascar became a French territory, which meant it had some local control but was still under France's rule. However, there were still people in Madagascar who wanted to be completely independent of France.

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