Colonies Lost: God, Hunger, and Conflict in Anosy (Madagascar) to 1674

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Variorum, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
A fleet of thirteen Portuguese vessels under the command of Pedro Álvares Cabral set sail from Lisbon for the East Indies just two years after Vasco da Gama fi rst rounded the Cape of Good Hope. In late May 1500, inclement weather at the Cape separated the vessel commanded by Diego Diaz from the others, blowing it well south of its intended course. Steering north to regain their way, Diaz and crew caught sight of land on 10 August along the coast of Anosy, Madagascar’s southeast extremity (fi g. 1). The day was the Feast of São Lourenço, and Diaz named the big island (Madagascar) for European cartography after the feast.1 As far as it is known, this was the fi rst sighting of Madagascar by seafarers hailing directly from the Atlantic via the Cape route. European sailors and mapmakers continued to identify Madagascar as São Lourenço (Portuguese) and Saint-Laurent (French) for centuries to come. From the early decades of the sixteenth century to the French abandonment of Madagascar in 1674, Anosy in southeast Madagascar was an important site of European-Malagasy interaction. The meeting grounds of Anosy played a signifi cant role in the early modern history of the southwest Indian Ocean, much as the Cape of Good Hope or Kilwa and Mombasa did, but they are poorly known outside a close circle of francophone Madagascar experts. At the same time little secondary literature on Anosy and its Europeans in any language is broad and comparative in outlook, setting them in wider and interconnected historical narratives of the region.2 ******************** 1. Alfred Grandidier, ed., Collection des ouvrages anciens concernant Madagascar, 9 vols. (Paris: Comité de Madagascar, 1903– 20), 1:3–5. 2. An exception is Mike Parker Pearson, “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: Malagasy Resistance and Colonial Disasters in Southern Madagascar,” World Archaeology 28 (1997): 393–417. This work covers a broad set of encounters between Europeans and the inhabitants of southern Madagascar to the seventeenth century, mainly from an archaeological perspective. Anosy was one of several areas of European interest in Madagascar before the late seventeenth century, others being in the west, particularly the Bay of Boina and Saint Augustine Bay, which are not covered in this article. For these, see Pearson, “Close Encounters,” the articles by Vincent Belrose-Huyghues cited in later notes, and William Foster, “An English Settlement in Madagascar in 1645–6,” English Historical Review 27 (1912): 239–50.
Colonies Lost, Madagascar, Anosy, Conflict, 1674
Volume 27, No. 2, 2007