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At the end of the eighteenth century, the Indian Ocean was the framework for large-scale trade, slave trade, cattle and rice trade in Madagascar-Mascarene, and trade in manufactured goods Arms, canvases, alcohol, etc.). This trade plays an important role in the external relations of the Great Island and extends far beyond its predominant location, the eastern coast, to cover the Upper lands, sihanaka, bezanozano and merina.
The traveler Mayeur, one of the most active of the Trait of the eighteenth century, adds a play on the subject as an appendix to his “Journey in the North of Madagascar” (November 1774January 1776). His writing refers to the post-Laval period, which governs the Treaty of the Indies. In 1767, he was replaced by Glemet during the transfer from the Ile-de-France to the French king, but he found himself once again the draftsman a year later.
Mayeur evokes “the variations in the prices of the objects of trade and their causes”. As long as the Indian Company and the King monopolize trade in the Great Island, counters exist everywhere on the eastern coast: Toamasina, Fulpointe, Fenoarivo, Manakara, in Antongil Bay. Prices are uniform as well as the measurement of rice. Similarly, the cost of manufactured products is fixed on known bases and agreed on both sides.
Later, the Treaty is allowed to individuals thus promoting competition. Thus, the price of a slave ranges from 23 to 62 piastres, that of beef between 4 and 8 piastres, and the rice, half a piastre the measure of 60 pounds against 90 pounds before. Accordingly, Mayeur suggests that “the trade of the interior should be left exclusively to the people of the country. They were strangely mistaken in believing that the fomentation of divisions between the natives was a policy in conformity with the interests of the Europeans.
Explaining his assertions, Mayeur states that if the Malagasy were previously obliged
To bring their rice to the counters of which they are close, competition not only raises the price, but also transforms villages into as many sales posts. And that’s not all. After having sold their rice, the Madcasses abandoned it, and it was necessary to remake with them for transport a second treaty almost as expensive as the first. He stressed that the Malagasy, conscious of the needs of the French, would never consent to reduce the high prices to which competition gives rise.
Concerning the provocation of conflicts between indigenous people in the idea that it is a sure way to procure more slaves, Mayeur challenges this European policy. For him, it is not in the midst of the fires, devastations and other scourges of war that commerce can develop. He cites the example of Labigorne’s war with the king of Fulpointe, Zanahary, son of Ratsimilaho, in 1751 and 1760. In the first conflict, an accurate account of the ensuing slave sales, Of 2,000 prisoners exported for the Treaty. In the second case, out of 2,500 prisoners, only 200 are sold. “In a third similar war in 1781 against the same prince, the number of prisoners amounted to 1,500, and that of slaves to 150 at the most. “
The reasons for this disproportion are simple. The first is that these are civil wars and the warriors in conflict are mostly relatives or allies. At the end of hostilities, the victors give liberty to their prisoners or exchange them against those of theirs taken by the enemy.
In the second place, the population of the province of Foulpointe, which trades in the interior with the plan of selling their slaves to the merchants, seeing the war on, does not sell them but keeps them for the exchanges necessitated by the conflict.
Finally, they are occupied in fortifying themselves and defending themselves, or they abandon the Tract entirely inland, or they do it only with great risk. Slaves thus become rare, which increases the disproportionate price compared with manufactured goods. This is also true for rice and oxen.