With its convenient location along trade routes, Madagascar endured numerous attempts by colonialists to establish themselves on the island since it's European discovery in 1500. In 1794, however, King Andrianampoinimerina united the tribes and established a single monarchy. In 1820, Britain officially recognized Madagascar as an independent state.
The British remained a strong influence on the island, bringing the Roman alphabet and Christianity to the Malagasy people. By the late 19th century, however, Britain's interest waned, leaving room for France to move in. In 1895, France invaded the island and installed a colonial government.
Throughout the 20th century, Malagasy nationalism rose, as locals demanded equal opportunities in their own land. A 1947 revolt was brutally squashed when frustrations reached their peak. The dream of independence remained alive, however, and during the 1950s political parties began to take shape. In 1960, Madagascar made a peaceful transition to independence.
While extreme poverty is a reality in Madagascar, current President Marc Ravalomanana has instituted broad civil reforms: democratization, economic liberalization, plus improved health care, roads, and schools. He has also initiated bold steps to move his nation into the modern world and safeguard its amazing – but deeply threatened – biodiversity.
Yet life goes on much like it always has for many Malagasy. Many still live close to the land much like their ancestors. Once called the "land that time forgot," Madagascar is a now a blend of old and new.
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