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Madagascar
Keymaster

After the Imerina, from the north and north-east, the troop led by Rafaralahy and James Hastie reached the country
Sihanaka. According to Jean Valette, in his Journal, the English agent gives no limit to the sihanaka country. The archivist palaeograph considers that Hastie crosses it from the Mananara river (June 27) to Mount Ampangalambotsy (July 7). This represents three distinct natural regions.
On June 28, James Hastie traveled from Mananara to Mount Ambohidrafidy, a rugged, deforested, very uncultivated area. “We did not see an afternoon tree and barely a few bunches of greenery, a few plots of land put into cultivation …” On the other hand, on June 29, he reported from the forest. On June 30, he arrived in the Alaotra basin. There,
Encounter with “beautiful plains” and low marshy lands which “produced a variety of rushes which serve at the same time material for the construction of the huts of the few inhabitants who inhabit the surroundings, and rich pasture for their small flocks” .
On 1 July, in the vicinity of Ambohidava, and as Hastie approached the village, the rice fields became more and more numerous. The situation changes in a few kilometers. Indeed, early in the morning, if he points out “vast swamps … suitable for crops,” he adds that “the greater part of it is entirely abandoned”.
On the other hand, when approaching Ambohidava, he is somewhat admiring when he writes that “the rice fields in the area are very large, and there is a large quantity of rice grown on the ground. It seems that there are many more than the inhabitants can consume. This is the first time that Hastie has reported a surplus crop and therefore a source of trade.
The same crop density is observed along the road from Ambohidava to Ambatondrazaka, then north of this village “for about
5 miles “. “We continue our route most of the time, through rice paddies much larger than any we have seen in the region.” Thereafter, and even beyond the village of Marosalaza, Hastie still reports cultivated land, but rice seems to be giving way to other crops such as cassava, maize, sugar cane, tobacco, peas, bananas, dreams and Cotton “. According to this description of Hastie, Jean Valette notes the existence around the lake of Alaotra of a rice-growing region in full communication, well cultivated, providing its inhabitants with an abundance of “and even beyond »». But, the archaeologist paleographer adds, the region crossed by Hastie is a small area, from the hill of Antanetikely to the south, to Mount Ampangalombolotsy in the east. “Similarly, the population seems to be relatively numerous in this rice-growing region and more sparse on its perimeter. “
Jean Valette then returns to the conquest of the Antsihanaka by the Merina, whose “circumstances are poorly known”. According to the
“Tantara”, “there was before an Andrianampoinimerina, an important Sihanaka thrust which occupied territories unquestionably of the habitat and the movement
Merina. And the archivist paleographer points out a few points.
A first point seems assured. The expression used by Hastie is as follows: “Rafaralahy, who commanded the king’s army when he was captured,” leaves no doubt. Second point: it also seems that the conquest is not too bloody. The description given by Hastie does not give the impression of a country ravaged and bloodied by war and the welcome made by Ambohidava to his victor, “received with great demonstrations of joy”, suggests that the war does not leave Of excessive rancor. Demonstrations of friendship on the way from Ambohidava to Ambatondrazaka confirm this point.
The meeting of the chief leaders of the Antsihanaka at Ambatondrazaka on July 3 is also symptomatic of an unreserved agreement between victors and vanquished. “Such an agreement, only a few years after the conquest, shows that it must have been relatively peaceful. The question is worth repeating. On June 26, James Hastie reported that the village of Ambohimanoa “and a number of other villages in the vicinity” belong to Rafaralahy and that this person raises “herds of cattle” on his estates . Undoubtedly, this is a fief, in full territory of merina origin, which is confirmed by the existence at Ambohitsitakatady of the tomb of one of the sons of Rafaralahy.