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Pirates and Kings: Power on the Shores of Early Modern Madagascar and the Indian Ocean*

jane hooper
Saint Josephs University

n 1698, the English government dispatched a squadron to remove Euro-American pirates from Madagascar. Popularized in literature as powerful warlords, these pirates in reality depended on Malagasy elites for survival. These Malagasy leaders also benefited from close contact with the pirates and consolidated their control over much of coastal Madagascar until their use of maritime violence challenged European ambitions in the region. The British in particular desired to create safe trading spaces in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. As a result, certain local leaders and merchants were once again labeled pirates by the British and came under attack. Scholars have discussed how combating piracy was an attempt by Europeans to assert their authority over maritime commerce.1 Few historians have noted that pirates themselves
* This article is based on research conducted in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, the Asian and African studies and rare manuscripts collections at the British Library, the British National Archives in Kew, the French Archives Nationales in Paris, the Centre des archives doutre-mer in Aix-en-Provence, France, and the Zanzibar National Archives. The author would like to thank the archivists and librarians who assisted in navigating these diverse collections. Portions of this article are also found in Jane Hooper, An Island Empire in the Indian Ocean: The Sakalava Empire of Madagascar (PhD thesis, Emory University, 2010). 1 See, for instance, Anne Protin-Dumon, The Pirate and the Emperor: Power and the Law on the Seas, 14501850, in The Political Economy of Merchant Empires, ed. James D. Tracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 197200; Lakshmi Subramanian, Of Pirates and Potentates: Maritime Jurisdiction and the Construction of Piracy in
Journal of World History, Vol. 22, No. 2 2011 by University of Hawaii Press



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influenced local power structures or that the issue of piracy was central to European imaginings of foreign lands such as Madagascar between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The study of piracy in the early modern Indian Ocean has primarily focused on acts of maritime violence occurring along the northern Indian Ocean littoral.2 Scholars have described how Europeans identified pirates in this region between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.3 Following their arrival into the Indian Ocean, Portuguese traders began debates over lawful trade around coastal India and the Arabian Peninsula.4 When the English, Dutch, and French sent ships into the ocean more frequently, they also found their trade in the region threatened by maritime violence. Continuing into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the struggle to eliminate piracy was one of the earliest contests over sovereignty in the northern Indian Ocean and one that continued with more violent results during the nineteenth century.5

the Indian Ocean, in Cultures of Trade: Indian Ocean Exchanges, ed. Devleena Ghosh and Stephen Muecke (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), p. 27. 2 On the problem of Indian piracy, see Sinnappah Arasaratnam, Maritime India in the Seventeenth Century, in Maritime India (1994; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 96 97, 198; Subramanian, Of Pirates and Potentates, p. 29. 3 The recognition of certain actors as illicit and attempts to control coastal regions marked periods of piracy, as weaker states attempted to create a sense of control over trade and maritime travel. On the relationship between weak states and piracy, see Stefan Eklf, Pirates in Paradise: A Modern History of Southeast Asias Maritime Marauders (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2006), pp. 6 7. On the relationship between states and piracy, see also Roxani Eleni Margariti, Mercantile Networks, Port Cities, and Pirate States: Conflict and Competition in the Indian Ocean World of Trade before the Sixteenth Century, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 51 (2008): 545546; Protin-Dumon, Pirate and the Emperor, pp. 196197; Marcus Rediker, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004), p. 19; Peter D. Shapinsky, Japanese Pirates and Sea Tenure in the Sixteenth Century Seto Inland Sea: A Case Study of the Murakami kaizoku (paper presented at Seascapes, Littoral Cultures, and Trans-Oceanic Exchanges, Library of Congress, Washington D.C., 1215 February 2003). 4 On the term pirate in this region, see Patricia Risso, Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Piracy: Maritime Violence in the Western Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf during a Long Eighteenth Century, Journal of World History 12, no. 2 (2001): 297300. McPherson describes pirates as among the many maritime communities present in the Indian Ocean world: Kenneth McPherson, Maritime Communities, an Overview, in Cross Currents and Community Networks: The History of the Indian Ocean World, ed. Himanshu Prabha Ray and Edward A. Alpers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 35. 5 For the specifics of piracy during the early modern period, see Protin-Dumon, Pirate and the Emperor, pp. 197207. On the growing monopoly of nation-states over the use of extraterritorial violence, see Janice E. Thomson, Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns: StateBuilding and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), particularly pp. 35.

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By focusing their studies on acts of piracy occurring primarily off the coast of India and the Arabian Peninsula, scholars have examined a region in which long-distance oceanic trade and acts of piracy were already common.6 Historians have described how Europeans visiting the northern Indian Ocean had to contend with preexisting trade networks and cooperate with local rulers.7 Piracy was yet another manifestation of the conflicts and disorder that periodically impacted commerce in this region.8 By contrast, Malagasy communities were distant from many Indian Ocean trade networks and faced more dramatic changes following the arrival of European merchants on their shores. In recounting the history of early modern piracy in the ocean, many historical studies present Madagascar as peripheral and uninvolved in the acts of maritime violence occurring in the ocean. In fact, the age of piracy coincided with a period of rapid state development within Madagascar, as various European and American groups introduced oceanic trade to regions that had been isolated from this trade previously. Leaders transformed coastal areas into centers for interaction, and beaches, in particular, into the setting for elaborate rituals between recognized trading partners.9 As people tried to reorganize their worlds in the wake of new economic opportunities, the arrival of European pirates presented novel ideas of power to elites on the island.10

Margariti, Mercantile Networks, pp. 549550. For an explanation of this point, see Sugata Bose, Space and Time on the Indian Ocean Rim: Theory and History, in Modernity and Culture: From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, ed. Leila Tarazi Fawaz and C. A. Bayly (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 372. 8 For a broader history of violence and state formation, see Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Of Imarat and Tijarat: Asian Merchants and State Power in the Western Indian Ocean, 1400 to 1750, Comparative Studies in Society and History 37, no. 4 (1995): 753756. 9 My understanding of cross-cultural encounters has been influenced by Greg Dening: Dening, Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land, Marquesas, 17741880 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1980); see also Michael N. Pearson, Littoral Society: The Case for the Coast, The Great Circle 7 (1985); Michael N. Pearson, Littoral Society: The Concept and the Problems, Journal of World History 17, no. 4 (2006): 353373. 10 A similar argument about these identities over the short term is found in Stephen Ellis, Tom and Toakafo: The Betsimisaraka Kingdom and State Formation in Madagascar, 17151750, Journal of African History 48 (2007): 447. See also the concluding remarks in Arne Bialuschewski, Pirates, Slavers, and the Indigenous Population in Madagascar, c. 16901715, International Journal of African Historical Studies 38, no. 2 (2005): 424425. This paper takes a broader view than either of these papers, in terms of geographical and temporal boundaries, by linking the early European pirates to the subsequent development of new identities in Madagascar, and the effect of these identities on European expansion in the ocean.


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Dozens of Europeans and Americans made Madagascar their home until they were targeted by English and French officials. From their arrival at Madagascar as early as 1650, pirates took advantage of disorder on the island to trade with local Malagasy rulers. Not constrained by the legal controls placed upon most European sailors, pirates successfully employed strategies that had been used by itinerant merchants in Madagascar for centuries. The elites of Madagascar formed close relationships with the Euro-American pirates who temporarily lived on their shores. In time, these elites established new states using strategies they gained through their contact with pirates.11 The experience of piracy in Madagascar, therefore, was distinct from that in the northern Indian Ocean. This paper uses a variety of ignored or little-used archival sources to reveal how the states formed by these Malagasy elites eventually presented a direct challenge to the rise of British and French power in the southwestern Indian Ocean.12 Early Modern Madagascar When Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French traders began frequenting the ports of Madagascar, they discovered populations already engaged in long-distance trade with groups throughout the Indian Ocean. The Antalaotra (the people from the ocean) constantly reasserted their ties to the wider Indian Ocean world through yearly exchanges.13 According to Portuguese observations, they sold rice,

11 This article participates in the debate over external influences on state formation in African societies by looking at how elites took advantage of interactions with traders and pirates to centralize states in Madagascar. Some of the pertinent literature that looks at interactions between Africa and the outside world includes George E. Brooks, Kola Trade and State-Building: Upper Guinea Coast and Senegambia, 15th17th centuries (Brookline, Mass: Boston University, African Studies Center, 1980); Ray A. Kea, Settlements, Trade, and Polities in the Seventeenth Century Gold Coast (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982); Donald R. Wright, The World and a Very Small Place in Africa (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1997). 12 The maritime records of the English East India Company, found in the British Library, and the French Compagnie des Indes, held at the French Archives Nationales, are rarely used to study the history of Madagascar, but the records are full of rich detail concerning interactions between European merchants and the Malagasy. 13 Ant refers to the place; laut means ocean. The term is also spelled Antalaotra and Antalaotse. See Gabriel Rantoandro, Une Communaut Mercantile du Nord-Ouest: Les Antalaotra, Omaly sy anio 20 (19831984): 195210. According to oral traditions, a common Shirazi ancestry linked the Antalaotra to Comorians and the Swahili: Jean-Franois Gourlet, ed., Chroniques mahoraise (Paris: LHarmattan, 2001), pp. 3334.


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slaves, and other items obtained within the island to passing dhows.14 The Antaloatra monopolized trade with the Africans and Arabs who visited various ports in northern Madagascar. Prior to the seventeenth century, no single port dominated trade, nor did a single state rule these ports.15 Different trading ports experienced varying degrees of success with obtaining the necessary provisions for the coastal inhabitants and for sale to traders.16 The Antaloatra were local cosmopolitans, people who while embedded in local relations, also maintain connections with distant places. 17 The merchants in Madagascar created ties with those in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula via marriage or other blood ties. The Antaloatra were Muslim, spoke some Swahili and/or Arabic, and shared certain cultural practices with the people of the Swahili coast of East Africa. They also used their appearance as both a mark of their social superiority and as an expression of their economic links to Indian Ocean traders.18 Due to the existence of networks linking the Antaloatra with groups in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese failed to dominate trade in this region. Complaining bitterly of Muslim influence, sixteenth- and
14 Sixteenth-century Portuguese sources are the best record of the preexisting trade networks in northern Madagascar. See especially Documents on the Portuguese in Mozambique and Central Africa, 14971840 (Lisboa: National Archives of Rhodesia, 1969), 6:67; Alfred Grandidier et al., eds., Collection des ouvrages anciens concernant Madagascar, 9 vols. (Paris: Comit de Madagascar, 19031920; henceforth COACM), see especially vols. 1 and 2. Other descriptions of trade in northwestern Madagascar: Thomas Vernet, Le commerce des esclaves sur la cote swahili, 15001750, Azania 38 (2003): 6797; Marie Radimilahy, Mahilaka: An Archaeological Investigation of an Early Town in Northwestern Madagascar (Uppsala: Uppsala University, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, 1998), p. 32. On the linkages with elsewhere in Madagascar, see H. T. Wright and J. A. Rakotoarisoa, The Rise of Malagasy Societies: New Developments in the Archaeology of Madagascar, in The Natural History of Madagascar, ed. Steven M. Goodman and Jonathan P. Benstead (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), p. 114; Pierre Vrin, The History of Civilisation in North Madagascar, trans. David Smith (Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema, 1986), pp. 145151. 15 Swahili political leadership was held by elites who also controlled trade: Chapurukha Makokha Kusimba, The Rise and Fall of Swahili States (Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 1999), pp. 180 182. On the early history of Swahili city-states, see Mark Horton and John Middleton, The Swahili: The Social Landscape of a Mercantile Society (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000). 16 At least a dozen ports were located in northern Madagascar by the late fifteenth century, according to the Arab geographer Ibn Mjid. See the remarks of Tibbetts in Ahmad ibn Mjid al-Najdi, Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Coming of the Portuguese, ed. and trans. G. R. Tibbetts (London: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1972), pp. 432435. 17 Engseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), p. 31. 18 The earliest Portuguese sources describing northwestern Madagascar: Tristan da Cunha, 1506, COACM, 1:1516; Fernan dAlbuquerque, 1506, ibid., 1:2022.

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seventeenth-century Portuguese merchants nonetheless attempted to trade with the Antaloatra who ran the ports and conducted exchanges with groups in the interior. The Antaloatra first expressed only apathy toward visiting European merchants but showed concern when the Portuguese tried to become a permanent presence on their coast.19 The Portuguese blamed an implacable hatred of Christians and the strength of the commercial sphere of the Arabs for discouraging the Malagasy on the island from trading with Christians.20 Despite the Portuguese regularly sending small ships from Mozambique to northwestern Madagascar for supplies of slaves and food, they ceased attempts at playing a larger role in the commerce of Madagascar. Prior to the arrival of European ships, most other communities on the island lacked annual, direct contact with oceanic trade networks. By the mid seventeenth century, the Portuguese, English, Dutch, and French purchased food and slaves from a variety of coastal communities. People on Madagascar supplied Europeans with cattle and rice in return for prestige items such as beads, cloth, or, by the eighteenth century, firearms.21 Struggling to gain access to European trade, elites fought with neighboring groups to accumulate goods and develop connections with other groups via interior trade routes. European commerce did not create local rivalries, but it did cause them to intensify. Meanwhile, European monopoly companies struggled for control on the shores of Madagascar and throughout the ocean, especially as sea lanes were not under direct European (or non-European) control. Trading companies such as the English East India Company (EIC) or the French Compagnie des Indes orientales received state permission to trade with all ports east of the Cape of Good Hope.22 These companies attempted to establish strong footholds throughout the ocean, but doing so strained their resources. Companies focused on developing profitable posts in the northern Indian Ocean and only periodically traded with groups in Madagascar. Distant from European states and
19 See, for instance, Histoire de la Revolte des Musulmans de Madagascar contre les Portugais, et martyre du P. Thomas, 1587, ibid., 1:153159. The culprits were Arabes or Mores de lisle de Saint-Laurent. 20 Luis Mariano, Portuguese Jesuit priest, visiting Madagascar in 1619, ibid., 1:319321. 21 On shifts in exchanges in coastal Madagascar, see Hooper, An Island Empire, especially pp. 140142. 22 On various trading companies, see H. V. Bowen, The Business of Empire: The East India Company and Imperial Britain, 17561833 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 228; Holden Furber, Rival Empires of Trade in the Orient, 16001800 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1976), pp. 327; Kerry Ward, Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 5577.


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their colonies in the Atlantic, European sailors in the Indian Ocean relied upon networks formed with local traders to refuel and purchase goods for their ships. The English in particular depended on the Mughal Empire, which dominated the Indian subcontinent. Despite the opportunities granted to trading companies by their governments, they struggled to form lasting alliances with communities along coasts. Following the end of state-sanctioned privateering in the Atlantic, Euro-American piracy spread into the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic by the end of the seventeenth century.23 When they did so, individuals such as William Kidd were no longer licensed as privateers but became pirates. Robbery, illegal trading, and coercive practices were familiar strategies for lawful traders during this period, and many of the pirates formerly worked for European governments. In the Indian Ocean, however, the pirates failed to respond to any state authorities.24 Even more frightening, many European and American pirates joined forces with other piratical groups already operating in the ocean.25 The pirates targeted non-European ships laden with riches from northern Indian Ocean ports near the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. When these pirates began attacking rich but poorly defended vessels belonging to the Mughal Empire, these attacks directly threatened the tenuous trading relationship between EIC officials and the Mughal emperor. Following a particularly brutal pirate attack on a Mughal pilgrim vessel in 1695, in which most of the passengers were reportedly raped or killed, trade from the Indian subcontinent almost ceased.26 The pirates attacked EIC ships as well. Now that both English and Mughal ships were threatened, the EIC begged the English government for assistance in eradicating the pirates.27 In part looking to eliminate the increasing sponsorship of pirate ships in the English American colonies, the government sent ships in 1698 to end the pirate raids.

23 On the movement of pirates into the Indian Ocean, see Rediker, Villains of All Nations, pp. 2637. 24 Thomson, Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns, p. 48. 25 Particularly off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula and India. J. L. Anderson, Piracy and World History: An Economic Perspective on Maritime Predation, Journal of World History 6, no. 2 (1995): 189191; Risso, Cross-cultural Perceptions, p. 317. 26 Risso, Cross-cultural Perceptions, pp. 307308. 27 P. Bradley Nutting, The Madagascar Connection: Parliament and Piracy, 1690 1701, American Journal of Legal History 22, no. 3 (1978): 204209. See various discussions of the pirates, especially Kidd, in reports of the EIC, 1697, IOR/H/36, India Office Records, British Library (henceforth BL); see also the encounter with Captain Kidd in the ship journal of the Madras Merchant, 16951696, IOR/L/MAR/A/CVI, BL.

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Rather than simply patrolling the coast of India, these ships were also dispatched to Madagascar, increasingly a pirate refuge.28 Despite operating in the northern Indian Ocean, pirates relied on the shores of Madagascar and Anjouan (Nzwani, in the Comoro archipelago) for supplies and as trading bases, perhaps as early as the mid seventeenth century.29 The pirates largely avoided the Antaloatra-controlled ports in northwestern Madagascar and instead settled along the east coast of the island, which offered easy refueling for ships and an opportunity to reside in a region not controlled by established merchants. Many of the pirates lived on the island of Sainte Marie (Nosy Boraha), off the eastern coast of Madagascar (see map). By 1697, at least forty-five pirates lived on Sainte Marie, although the EIC could not confirm the exact number.30 From this settlement, pirates did not just purchase goods but also established a residence and fortification to coordinate (illegal) trading with the Americas.31 According to English records, the pirates sold slaves and food from the island, as well as stolen goods to ships that passed by the east coast of the island, including cheap India cloth, gems, and gold.32 The EIC directed English warships to this coast to eradicate the pirate threat. The fleet dispatched to Madagascar, while partly in response to the complaints of the Mughal court, was intended to eliminate the presence of illicit traders, mostly from North America,

28 On this attack and the broader issue of European sovereignty in the Indian Ocean, see Lauren Benton, Oceans of Law: The Legal Geography of the Seventeenth-Century Seas (paper presented at Seascapes, Littoral Cultures, and Trans-Oceanic Exchanges, Library of Congress, Washington D.C., 1215 February 2003, .edu/proceedings/seascapes/benton.html; accessed 27 May 2009). 29 Powle Waldegrave, An Answer to Mr Boothbies Book, of the Description of the Island of Madagascar (London: Printed by T. N., 1649), p. 5. See also Capt John Preston, A Journal of the Ship Charles, 1689, Sloane Ms. 3672, Manuscript collection, BL. 30 Extract of the Surratt Generall to the Company, the 6th February 1696/7, rec. 28th Jan. 1697, in IOR/H/36, BL, f. 309. 31 Robert Blackborne, letter, in ibid., f. 317. Importantly, many of these pirates attempted to transport goods to the Americas. Nutting argues that the colonists in North America, following the passage of the Navigation Acts, required cheap goods by the 1690s. Nutting, The Madagascar Connection, p. 204. He also states that efforts against the Madagascar pirates promised to dovetail with the policy of the newly created Board of Trade (established in 1696) to achieve greater political and economic consolidation of the colonial empire. Ibid., p. 206. 32 The records of the English attempts to capture pirates in Madagascar are found in the Records of the High Court of Admiralty and colonial Vice-Admiralty courts, National Archives, Kew, UK (henceforth HCA), HCA 1/98. Platt discussed the slave trading in the Americas at this time and its ties with pirates continuing through the 1720s: Virginia Bever Platt, The East India Company and the Madagascar Slave Trade, William and Mary Quarterly 26, no. 4 (1969): 548 551.


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in the region.33 Europeans worried about pirate successes threatening their trading ventures in both oceans, particularly the tenuous hold the trading companies had over commerce, including the lucrative trade in cloth and spices, as well as exports from Madagascar. They also worried about the attraction of the pirate life to their own sailors, as captains worried about sailors threatening them with piratical expressions. 34 European fears of the pirates arose, in part, from the mythology that surrounded their activities. European writers described Madagascar as a paradise for would-be European colonists, and some worried that pirates were more successful than other groups of colonists on the island. The stories included those of Henry Avery, who joined a company of English privateers in 1693.35 Avery attacked ships in West Africa and throughout the Indian Ocean before returning to the Americas, where he spent years evading trial.36 In 1709, a London writer, perhaps Daniel Defoe, embellished the story of Avery, describing John Averys alleged return to Madagascar, along with his Mughal princess wife. Avery reportedly signed treaties with Malagasy leaders and provided them with firearms. Other pirates settled all over the country, taking 2 or 3 wives a piece amongst the most beautiful of the negro women. Yet they lived in continual fear of the negroes, in case of reprisal against their misdeeds.37 In a (likely) fictional description of John Plantain, a notorious pirate at Madagascar, the title character became a king on the island over a period of eight years.38 After leaving le Sainte Marie to live

33 The EIC probably received support from the English government seeking to assert authority over trade in the American colonies. American governors had incentives to allow illicit trading to occur on their shores. Nutting, The Madagascar Connection, pp. 204 205. 34 The ship journal of the Dragon, 1758, IOR/L/MAR/B/598 E, BL. 35 On European stories: Daniel Defoe(?), The Famous Adventures of Captain John Avery, of Plymouth, A Notorious Pirate (1720[?]; London: Falkirk: Printed by T. Johnston, 1809); Clement Downing, A Compendious History of the Indian Wars (London: T. Cooper, 1737). Although some of the other sections of Downings book may have been factual, the section on Madagascar appears to be largely fictitious. For an example of Downings accuracy, see Risso, Cross-cultural Perceptions, p. 304. 36 Colin Woodard, The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). See the first chapter, dedicated to the life of Avery, titled The Legend, pp. 10 27. 37 Defoe(?), The Famous Adventures, pp. 1424. For ease of reading, some of the spelling has been altered to conform to modern conventions. 38 The account of Plantain is found in Downing, A Compendious History, pp. 1138.

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on the east coast of Madagascar, Plantain took a great many wives and servants, calling them by English names, such as Sue or Pegg, and dressed them in silk and diamonds.39 From the east coast, Plantain exacted tribute from his neighbors and went to war against the larger neighboring groups.40 After a series of political intrigues, in which his local allies turned against him, and years of warfare, Plantain reportedly left Madagascar to join the Indian pirates of Angria.41 European historical myths emphasized the power accorded to these pirates in Madagascar. On this island, any man could have become a king, even disreputable lower-class sailors of Europe or the Americas. The story of Robinson Crusoe also provided a summary of Western imaginings of islands as lands free of political structures and ready to be remade by Westerners.42 This theme was repeated in the contemporary mythology about Madagascar. In one story, a pirate named Captain Mission and his crew founded Libertalia, a liberal utopian colony, in northern Madagascar around 1700. Slaves were freed as the pirates established an alternate social order on the island.43 If, as Rediker has pointed out, poor seamen turned pirates dramatized the concerns of class, pirates turned kings threatened social stability even further.44 When pirates such as Plantain joined forces with groups in the northern Indian Ocean, they continued to attack the efforts of the EIC to establish stable trading networks. In the English imagination, Madagascar was a world in which the English could peacefully trade and benefit from contacts with hospitable locals. The English worried that pirates would influence and ruin Malagasy communities before lawful traders made a mark. Writers, as well as EIC officials, discounted the role of existing oceanic networks in shaping how elites on the island engaged with the visiting pirates. These pirates did not wash up on the shores of an unpopulated Madagascar. Rather they had to work with Malagasy elites and fight for survival on the island.

Ibid., pp. 115116. Including a campaign against the king of Massaliege: ibid., pp. 116118. 41 Ibid., p. 138. 42 Maximillian E. Novak, Crusoe the King and the Political Evolution of His Island, Studies in English Literature, 1500 1900 2, no. 3 (1962). 43 Daniel Williams, Refuge upon the Sea: Captivity and Liberty in The Florida Pirate, Early American Literature 36, no. 1 (2001): 76. See the original story in Ch. Johnsons The History of Pyrates, in COACM, 3:480486. On the European reaction to these stories, see Thomson, Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns, pp. 48 49. 44 Rediker, Villains of All Nations, p. 6.



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Pirate Communities When pirates began arriving on le Sainte Marie around 1650, they confronted communities in the midst of upheaval and relied upon local leaders. When the English dispatched ships to eliminate pirate colonies in Madagascar, the descriptions of their visits revealed the ease with which elites associated with and controlled the pirates.45 On the west coast, a group known as the Sakalava had developed a military state during the seventeenth century. Through a series of imposed tributary relationships, the Sakalava monarchs monopolized trade in the western region of the island by around 1700.46 On the east coast of Madagascar, no dominant trading empire developed during this century. Various kings in this region struggled to engage in commerce with Europeans but found this task impossible without controlling trade routes in the interior.47 It was into this unstable world that the pirates arrived after 1650. Large communities of pirates lived on the coast of the island from around 1690 until 1720.48 Despite linguistic and cultural ties to the

Various documents in HCA 1/98. General histories of the Sakalava Empire during this time: Jean Franois Bar, Sable rouge: Une monarchie du Nord-Ouest Malgache dans lhistoire (Paris: LHarmattan, 1980), pp. 2441; Hooper, An Island Empire; Raymond K. Kent, Early Kingdoms in Madagascar, 15001700 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), pp. 160178; Jacques Lombard, Le royaume sakalava du Menabe, 1720: essai danalyse dun systme politique Madagascar (Paris: Editions de lORSTOM, 1988), pp. 935; Solofo Randrianja and Stephen Ellis, Madagascar: A Short History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), pp. 77121. 47 On this period in Madagascar, see especially Etienne de Flacourt, Histoire de la grande isle Madagascar, ed. Claude Allibert (Paris: Karthala, 1995); Jan van Riebeeck, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck, ed. Hendrik Bernardus Thom, 3 vols. (Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, 1952), 1:191; J. C. Armstrong, Madagascar and the Slave Trade in the Seventeenth Century, Omaly sy anio 1720 (19831984): 223; descriptions of trade in the records of the Compagnie des Indes orientales, French Archives Nationales, Paris (henceforth AN), especially in the records of Fonds des Colonies, Correspondance lArrive, Madagascar, 1660s1710, COL C/5a/1. 48 Despite the British announcing the dispersal of pirates from Madagascar, the sultana of Anjouan complained of pirates in 1704: Stanes, A Journal of a voyage to Muscat and Surrat, 1703, Add. Ms. 24931, Manuscript collection, BL (see also Sloane Ms. 3145, BL). One French document also states that 1704 was the peak of pirate activity off Madagascar: M LAbbe Davelu, n.d., Notes historiques sur lisle de Bourbon, 15061753,in Fonds des Colonies, Divers, Collection Moreau de St Mry, COL F/3/1, AN. Another French source states that pirates, forbans, and filibusters inhabited Madagascar mostly around 1706: letter, 28 July 1706, MAR B/2/190, f. 623. In 1731, a dispatch from the Mascarenes stated that the pirates in Madagascar had been eliminated: letter, 1731, COL C/3/5. For an overall summary of pirates in Madagascar, see Hubert Deschamps, Les pirates Madagascar aux XVIIe et XVIIIe sicles (Paris: ditions Berger-Levrault, 1972), especially pp. 100105, 121177.


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European Atlantic, the pirates came from diverse locations, including Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, and North America. Europeans described some of the pirates as negro or negre. 49 The inhabitants of the pirate colonies included ambitious traders, retired pirates, and runaway sailors. These colonists sold supplies to pirate ships, but they also attempted to create centers of slave-trading on the east coast of Madagascar. The English and French, increasingly involved in trade on the island, complained that these renegades of all nations disturbed communities in Madagascar by kidnapping people and cattle from communities on the island.50 In reality, pirates traded with rulers on Madagascar and relied upon them for supplies. Without support from their Malagasy neighbors, the pirates could not gain access to food or slaves, used locally in the pirate communities and sold to passing ships.51 The pirates used their exclusive access to firearms to negotiate with local rulers and frequently married Malagasy elites. Both strategies allowed them to gain admittance into local trade networks.52 An example of this experience can be seen in the well-documented case of Adam Baldridge.53 Around 1691, a New York merchant named Frederick Philipse sponsored a settlement on le Sainte Marie, an island within viewing distance of the eastern coast of Madagascar.54 He sent a
Some of these negros many have been brought as servants: HCA 1/98. Alexander Dalrymple, Geographical collections of Alexander Dalrymple on Mauritius, Island of Bourbon, Madagascar, and Diego Rayes, 1808, Add. 33,765, 2. See also various comments in HCA 1/98. 51 See the account of Thomas Green, accused pirate, in The case of Capt. Tho. Green, commander of the ship Worcester, and his crew, tried and condemned for pyracy & murder, in the records of the High Court of Admiralty of Scotland, London, 1705, from Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale, 19. Available from Emory University Robert W. Woodruff Lib. =multipage&tabID=T001&prodId=ECCO&docId=CW3324019224&source=gale& userGroupName=emory&version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILE (accessed 27 August 2009). 52 Our primary sources on these migrant communities come from European efforts to eradicate their presence on Madagascar when they threatened the licit trade of European monopoly companies. Europeans also noted the degree of interaction between the pirates and the Malagasy. The suppression of piracy gained support in part due to religious sectarianism, as the French complained that mostly English Protestant pirates spread Protestantism among the Malagasy. See colonial correspondence, 1706, COL C/2/12, AN. The French government tried to stop illegal trading with pirates at le de Bourbon (Runion) in 1711: orders of the king of France, 11 January 1711, COL C/3/31, AN. 53 On the Baldridges history, see HCA 1/98, which contains copies of letters written by Baldridge and his sponsor, Philipse. See also the archival work of Arne Bialuschewski on this topic, especially Bialuschewski, Thomas Bowreys Madagascar Manuscript of 1708, History in Africa 34 (2007): 3142. 54 Jacob Judd, Frederick Philipse and the Madagascar Trade, New York Historical Society Quarterly 55 (1971): 354374.
50 49


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ship with trading goods and experienced sailors (mostly former pirates) to the small island. Following the death of most of the colonists, Adam Baldridge took control of the settlement. Assisted by a black servant he had brought on the journey, Baldridge asserted himself as the leader of the colony and began to establish relationships with his neighbors. The Sainte Marien king sent over his daughter to marry Baldridge.55 In marrying the kings daughter, Baldridge did not simply gain a wife. He attached himself to an entire Malagasy community.56 In the style of the neighboring chiefs and European merchants, Baldridge constructed a fort or palisade around his settlement, fortified with guns, and he gained a following of armed local warriors to protect it.57 He traded with the pirates raiding ships around the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Madagascar, and Anjouan, as well as with the ships sent by Philipse, his sponsor, from America. Baldridge tried to sell cattle, rice, and slaves to passing ships, but supplies were extremely limited. Following a few small shipments, Philipse angrily wrote a letter in which he blamed Baldridge for loading a ship in 1691 with only thirty-four slaves, fifteen of them children and 3 years suckling. 58 Baldridge could not obtain sufficient slaves, despite marrying a local woman and allying with local rulers. After his camp on le Sainte Marie was destroyed by Malagasy whose cattle his men had stolen, he returned to America.59
Bialuschewski, Pirates, Slavers, and the Indigenous Population, pp. 406407. G.A. Rantoandro, Hommes et rseaux Malata de la cte orientale de Madagascar lpoque de Jean Ren (17731825), Annuaire des pays de lOcan Indien 17 (20012002): 101121. Such marriages were common throughout the Indian Ocean during the early modern period: Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, The Prazeros as Transfrontiermen: A Study in Social and Cultural Change, The International Journal of African Historical Studies 8, no. 1 (1975): 139; Patrick Manning, Frontiers of Family Life: Early Modern Atlantic and Indian Ocean Worlds, Modern Asian Studies 43, no. 1 (2009): 315333. The French also established marriage alliances in southern Madagascar: Pier M. Larson, Colonies Lost: God, Hunger, and Conflict in Anosy (Madagascar) to 1674, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 27, no. 2 (2007): 360361. 57 Bialuschewski argues that the construction of the fortification demonstrated that Baldridge feared for his safety on Sainte Marie. Bialuschewski, Pirates, Slavers, and the Indigenous Population, p. 407. However, it seems more likely he was simply following the usual practice of local rulers and European traders alike. Europeans typically built fortified storehouses on the shore of Madagascar to hold their trading goods: see the 1750 trading account of the ship Princesse Emilie, in MAR 4 JJ/86, AN. Malagasy leaders also frequently build walls or palisades around their homes. For instance, see the description of walled communities in the interior of the island provided by Franois Martin, 16651668, COACM, 9:565. Robert Drury mentions the presences of wooden palisades on the west coast: Robert Drury, The Adventures of Robert Drury (London: Printed and sold by W. Meadows, 1743; Hull repr. for Stodart and Craggs, 1807), pp. 262264. 58 HCA 1/98. 59 Protin-Dumon describes Baldridges failure as a pirate-merchant as illustrating the increasing pressures faced by independent merchants in the Indian Ocean: Protin-Dumon, Pirate and the Emperor, p. 216.
56 55

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Other pirates living on the island faced similar challenges in creating profitable settlements.60 Ignorant of these failures, the EIC and English government sent a fleet to capture pirates.61 Several pirates boarded the ships voluntarily, a testament to the difficulties they had faced on the island. Others were captured at St. Augustines Bay, a Sakalava tributary port on the southwest coast. Throughout the late 1690s, many other pirates returned to America following the issuance of an English pardon.62 Not all of the pirates were ready to return to the Americas or Europe. Some of the accused pirates made their escape at the Cape of Good Hope, and the Dutch government, probably wishing to defy the English, refused to extradite them.63 Some others decided to live on the Mascarene Islands, and a few struggled to survive in Madagascar.64 Baldridges supposed replacement, Edward Welch, tried to establish trading forts on the east coast of Madagascar.65 Eventually, it seems, he ended up at the court of the Sakalava king on the west coast of Madagascar. Under the king, Welch appears to have served as a trading representative until his health deteriorated due to the strains of the tropical climate. He died in 1708.66 Despite the apparent success of the English campaign, French colonial officers in the nearby Mascarenes continued to complain that pirates threatened their trade in Madagascar. During the 1720s, they sent several warships to capture the raiders.67 French ships captured a few pirate vessels off Madagascar, but many of the pirates remained on the island and sought protection from various monarchs. By 1737, the English and French were more concerned with the increase in

See various accounts of pirates in HCA 1/98. Despite the involvement of the Portuguese and Dutch in trade in Madagascar, they made few efforts to end piracy. Perhaps because they were less dependent on Madagascar for supplies, the Portuguese developing their colony in Mozambique and the Dutch, at the Cape. 62 Memoire sur les forbans qui sont dans les mers des Indes, 29 November 1707, in COL C /2/12, AN. 63 Furber, Rival Empires, pp. 144145, 217. 64 Letter, 9 February 1698, COL C/2/8, AN; Dalrymple, Add. 33,765, BL, f. 13. 65 Welch is described as a replacement for Baldridge in HCA 1/98. 66 A French ship in 1708 dealt with the trading representative, M. Waliche until his death: MAR 4 JJ/88, AN. There is, of course, no proof this is the very same Welch described in HCA 1/98, although the evidence points toward the two being the same man. 67 Letters from le de Bourbon, 17231724, COL C/3/34, AN. See French worries illuminated in a letter written by Desforges Boucher, 30 November 1725, in ibid. The French government had given the French colonies permission to eliminate piracy: ProtinDumon, Pirate and the Emperor, p. 219. The English also sent ships to eradicate the resurgence of piracy near Madagascar: Thomson, Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns, pp. 5354.



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piracy along Indias coast.68 The shores of Madagascar were once again deemed safe spaces for ships to trade and refuel, as the English and French had supposedly restored law and order to the island. Meanwhile, pirate attempts to establish permanent trading colonies had failed, but Malagasy elites used the history of pirates to their advantage in the struggle for political dominance in the region. The stability of trade on Madagascar, admired by European captains during the mid eighteenth century, developed in part from contact with pirates in the previous decades.69 T HE Zana-Malata, D ESCENDANTS


The formation of new identities at the hands of Malagasy elites complicates our understanding of how people during the early modern period viewed their world and seized opportunities. Claims to possess pirate ancestry led to the creation of the Betsimisaraka (the many who are not separated) confederation in eastern Madagascar. Within this confederation, Malagasy elites attempted to dominate trade and the use of violence along the east coast for several decades. The possession of foreign origins granted the leaders added legitimacy, thanks to their access to oceanic networks of power inaccessible to other Malagasy. Tracing ancestry to pirates allowed Betsimisaraka leaders to distinguish themselves from rivals and dominate trade, much as the Antaloatra used their ancestry to give them privileged access to Swahili networks.70 As a result, references to pirate origins overshadowed the history of eastern Madagascar from 1720 to the mid nineteenth century. Following their dispersal by European squadrons, many pirates sheltered under the protection of the Sakalava Empire on the west coast. Pirates were welcomed by the leaders, as were other migrants.71

68 On pirates during this time: the ship journal of the Greenwich, 1720, IOR /L / MAR /B/488 A, BL; the ship journal of the Prince Frederick, 1722, IOR /L /MAR /B/663 C, BL; the ship journal of the Duke of York, 1723, IOR /L / MAR /B/94 B-C, BL; on Angria pirates, see the instructions given to English ships in 1737, in IOR /E/3/107, BL, ff. 115, 282. 69 The peak in the number of slave exports from the island to European and American traders occurred during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The trade in other supplies, however, continued to increase throughout the eighteenth century, as French, English, and Dutch traders relied on the ports of Madagascar for steady supplies of food and labor to fuel their endeavors elsewhere in the ocean. See Hooper, An Island Empire, pp. 103108, 174175. 70 On Malagasy conceptions of kingship, see Ellis, Tom and Toakafo, p. 453. 71 See letter from le de Bourbon, 1723, in COL C/3/34, AN.

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The Sakalava king gave foreigners special allowances within his territory, such as granting Muslims religious freedom.72 Such tolerance encouraged the settlement of traders from the northern Indian Ocean in western Madagascar, as well as numerous white men. 73 By the 1720s, the former pirates lived in the northwestern port of Boina in a very handsome manner, possessing houses with pewter dishes and many cattle and slaves. 74 For European sailors, this lifestyle was so appealing that many passing European captains complained of fractious fellows trying to flee inland at St. Augustines Bay and other ports, in hopes of a better life under the protection of Sakalava leaders.75 Sakalava elites knew how to use the pirates to their advantage in trading negotiations. In return for harboring these fugitives, Sakalava monarchs acquired military and linguistic knowledge. At first, retired pirates took on roles as interpreters and mediators for trade.76 However, by the mid eighteenth century, many Sakalava traders on the west coast could speak English, as well as some French and Portuguese. The Sakalava may have gained this knowledge from many years of close contact with the former pirates.77 Reportedly, the people of St. Augustines Bay had learned from the pirates how to curse in English, making frequent statements such as G-d Dn ye, John, me love you. 78 The introduction of guns to Madagascar roughly coincided with the arrival of pirates and they may have assisted in the instruction in the use of firearms as well.79 The history of contact with European and American pirates had a far different effect on the east coast. The elite on this coast claimed

72 Journal and Logbook of an Anonymous Scotch Sailor, 1726, Hispanic Society of America, New York; also referred to in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, available from, Voyage ID 76203. 73 See accounts such as Piet Westra and James C. Armstrong, eds., Slawehandel met Madagaskar: die joernale van die Kaapse slaweskip Leijdsman, 1715 (Kaapstad: Africana Uitgewers, 2006), p. 99. 74 Dalrymple, Add. 33,765, BL, f. 18. See also Drury, The Adventures, p. 432. 75 The ship journal of the King George, 1719, IOR/L/MAR/B/402 B, BL. 76 On white men assisting with trade, see an anonymous guide to trade, titled An Accot of the present comodityes that are imported & exported at Madagascarr and the manner of dealing with the natives, late seventeenth century(?), in Rawlinson Ms. A 334, Memoirs of East India, Bodleian Library, Oxford University Library, ff. 6162. 77 For descriptions of Sakalava translators, see the ship journal of the Onslow, 1741, IOR/L/MAR/B/164 C, BL; the ship journal of the Swallow, 1749, IOR/L/MAR/B/385 A, BL; the ship journal of the Dragon, 1753, IOR/L/MAR/B/598D, BL. 78 Downing, A Compendious History, p. 81. 79 Ibid., p. 119. This position is strongly argued against in Bialuschewski, Pirates, Slavers, and the Indigenous Population, pp. 414419.


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to be zana-malata,80 descendents of Euro-American pirates. During the 1730s, French traders began to note references to the former piratetrader Baldridge, several decades after he had left the island. In 1733, French traders in Antongil Bay were approached by a local king named Baldrich multre or Roy [king] Baldrige. He was dressed in rich French clothing, including a jacket decorated with gold buttons.81 This French-speaking king arrived with five hundred armed men, as well as two women, probably his wives, and their mulatto sons.82 A few years later, King Baldridges uncle, another king near Antongil Bay, traded with the French. He was dressed similarly and accompanied by three light-skinned wives, also dressed in fine cloth.83 French sources fail to connect the name of Baldridge to the pirate who previously inhabited these shores, but it appears that people in Madagascar adopted these titles for themselves. Other zana-malata kings began to control trade in eastern Madagascar. On le Sainte Marie, a king of mixed-descent instituted a trading ritual that he stated had been learned from the pirates.84 In 1733, he shared a drink of seawater and gun powder with the visiting French captain. Then they concluded their alliance with a blood-sharing ritual known as serment or fati-dra, likely of East African origin.85 Starting in the 1730s, the center of European trade in food and slaves on the east coast shifted from Antongil Bay, the home of King Baldriche, to a port to the south, known to the Europeans as Foulpointe.86 A new

80 According to Yvette Sylla, the term Malata is a deformation malgache of the French word multre (mulatto): Yvette Sylla, Les Malata: Cohesion Et Disparit Dun Groupe, Omaly sy anio 2122 (1985): 19. Zana roughly translates as children, so zana-malata refers to the descendents of Euro-Americans and Malagasy. 81 The voyage of the Duc DAnjou, 1736, MAR 4 JJ/76, AN. 82 The ship journal of Le Heron, 1732, MAR 4 JJ/91, AN; the voyage of LHirondelle, 1733, MAR 4 JJ/86, AN. A few years later, a French captain noted his ship going past Ile aux Baldrige and later traders referred to the entrance into the Bay of Antongil as Baldrige Point: the ship journal of the lAstre, 1734, MAR 4 JJ/86, AN. 83 The ship journal of the Duc DAnjou, 17361737, MAR 4 JJ/76, AN. 84 The ship journal of the Heron, 1732, MAR 4 JJ/91, AN; Downing, A Compendious History, p. 93. 85 This ceremony was used on both the east and west coasts of the island to cement alliances throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. See Maurice-Auguste Benyowsky, Voyages et Memoirs de Maurice-Auguste, Comte de Benyowsky, 2 vols. (Paris: F. Buisson, 1791), 2:269; E. Birkeli, Folklore Sakalava: Recueilli Dans La Rgion De Morondava, Bulletin de lAcadmie Malgache 6, no. (1924): 174. On the Swahili ritual of creating blood ties, see Mark Horton, Shanga: The Archaeology of a Muslim Trading Community on the Coast of East Africa (London: British Institute in Eastern Africa, 1996), p. 413. 86 The EIC ordered a slave trading ship to visit Foulpointe first to procure slaves in 1737: IOR/E/3/107, Letterbook, BL, f. 115. The French regularly visited this port through-

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leader, also claiming Euro-American ancestry, took control of Foulpointe during this decade. A multre of a pirate reportedly named Tom Tew and the Malagasy daughter of a local chief, Ratsimilaho (Ratsimilahoe, Tamsimalo, or Tom Similo) established a trading state at Foulpointe.87 He transformed the port into an exporting center catering to French demands for cattle, rice, and slaves for the Mascarene Islands. According to a French history written several decades later, Ratsimilaho had founded the Betsimisaraka confederation and united the zana-malata of the east coast during the first half of the eighteenth century.88 Ratsimilaho used a series of ceremonial meetings with speeches (kabary) and blood-sharing ceremonies (fati-dra) to unify neighboring zana-malata leaders. The goal of this confederation was to establish the zana-malata as the unquestioned leaders of the east coast of Madagascar. It seems likely that the confederation actually began, in part, for defensive reasons, as east coast leaders sought protection against Sakalava attacks. Following several brutal raids by the Sakalava army on the villages around Antongil Bay around 1734, several east coast communities were left close to starvation and begging for the French to sell them firearms, likely to be used as protection against further attacks.89 Kings who traced their ancestry to the pirates joined in a defensive federation against the Sakalava and other groups on the east coast. Led by the king Ratsimilaho, the zana-malata assisted each other against the Sakalava attacks. Even though his port of Foulpointe was not under attack, Ratsimilaho sent thirty canoes with armed soldiers to assist his allies, the Baldriches.90 Following the dispersal of the Sakalava forces, the goal of the Betsimisaraka confederation turned from defensive to offensive. Beginning in 1738, the white kings of Antongil (Baldriche and his uncle) joined forces with Ratsimilaho to attack their neighbors, seize rice and slaves,

out the eighteenth century, especially during wartime: see various ship journals in MAR 4 JJ/77, 17471749, AN. 87 Randrianja and Ellis, Madagascar, pp. 105107. Most histories of Ratsimilahoe rely on the French translator and slave trader Mayeurs Histoire de Ratismilahoe, roi de Foulpointe et de Bet-tsimiscaracs, found in Add. Ms. 1812818129, Mmoires pour servir lhistoire de Lisle de Madagascar, BL, 2:183300. See also Dalrymple, Add. 33,765, BL, f. 18. On a discussion of Mayeurs history, see Ellis, Tom and Toakafo, pp. 447448. 88 Histoire de Ratismilahoe, Add. Ms. 1812818129, 2:218, BL. 89 The ship journal of the Astree, 1734, MAR 4 JJ/86, AN. 90 The ship journal of the Duc dAnjou, 1736, MAR 4 JJ/76, AN.


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and assert their power on the east coast.91 To become more powerful, Ratsimilaho concluded a peace treaty with the Sakalava, in which he made the leaders of the confederation allies of the Sakalava. Ratsimilaho became part of the Sakalava dynasty following the fati-dra ceremony. He even convinced the Sakalava king to send his daughter to him for marriage.92 By providing the Sakalava with slaves and rice, the Betsimisaraka received cattle from northern Madagascar and ensured their safety against future Sakalava attacks.93 Ratsimilaho and his fellow zana-malata did not present themselves as European, but rather leaders with ties to fellow elites, whether they were Malagasy or European.94 In 1738, when a French ship approached Foulpointe to trade with Tamsimalo, the king was dressed in a combination of French and local clothing. According to French sources, he spoke English fairly well and French even better.95 He showed favor to the French. Reportedly, while he never allowed any of his subjects to sleep with his sister Betty, he thought himself honored when they or any other white men were familiar with her. 96 He traded rice, slaves, and cattle in return for guns and gunpowder from French merchants. His descendents even agreed to give le Sainte Marie to the French in 1750.97 United with other zana-malata rulers on the east coast, the Betsimisaraka confederation spread its influence within Madagascar using the weapons purchased from the French. From the 1730s until 1810, the Betsimisaraka confederation led a series of military attacks on the
91 The ship journal of the Amphitrite, 17381739, ibid. Sources imply ties between Ratsimilaho and the Sakalava empire as early as 1715: Ellis, Tom and Toakafo, p. 451. The original source describes a ruler visiting the northwest coast named Andian Simonalij or Simialoe; see Westra and Armstrong, Slawehandel, p. 95. If this were the case, it placed Ratsimilaho in an even stronger position to mediate between the people of Antongil Bay and the attacking Sakalava. 92 Ellis, Tom and Toakafo, p. 442. On the marriage, see Histoire de Ratsimilahoe, Add. Ms. 1812818129, BL, 1:127. 93 This arrangement was present several decades later and appears to have begun under Ratsimilahos rule. Mayeur, 1774, Voyage au pays des Seclaves, cte ouest de Madagascar, found in Add. Ms. 1812818129, Mmoires pour servir lhistoire de Lisle de Madagascar, BL, 1:98. 94 On mixed parentage, see Sylla, Les Malata, pp. 2728. 95 The ship journal of the Amphitrite, 17381739, MAR 4JJ/76, AN. 96 Dalrymple, Add. 33,765, BL, f. 18 97 A copy of the 1750 treaty is found in COL C/5A/1, AN; Dalrymple, Add. 33,765, BL, f. 18. The treaty was signed by a Queen Bety, described as either the sister or daughter of Ratsimilaho. The disorder following the start of the French colony suggests that the queen never had full control or assent of the people to grant the French the island. For a description of the French colony, see Legentil, memoir, 1761, in Fonds ministriels, Dpt fortifications colonial, Sainte Marie de Madagascar, XVII/memoires/88, Centre des Archives Nationales dOutre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence, France (henceforth CAOM).

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interior of Madagascar and defended their trading monopoly against threats from groups to the interior and on the coast.98 Betsimisaraka ascendency was halted by the expansion of other groups from the highland interior by the late eighteenth century and the Merina conquered the coast during the following century.99 Despite these challenges, the Betsimisaraka confederation and the Betsimisaraka identity constituted a rallying point for people of east Madagascar throughout the eighteenth century and into the turbulent nineteenth century.100 By the end of the eighteenth century, the Betsimisaraka confederation was a source of unity to the people of the east coast, while the Sakalava Empire had consolidated power on the west. Both political formations relied upon internal and external trade routes for power. The people of the coast, however, came increasingly under attack by two foes, one in the interior of the island and others from the sea. The expansion of the Merina kingdom from Antananarivo threatened the territorial expansion of both political formations of the coast and cut off valuable trading supplies.101 In the ocean, the British and French invested unprecedented energy to extend their commercial and political dominance in the Indian Ocean. The new global identities asserted by the leaders of both the Betsimisaraka and the Sakalava threatened the growth of this dominance. Malagasy Pirates The history of European pirates in Madagascar gave the Malagasy new narratives about their incorporation into the world economy. For the Malagasy, contact with pirates allowed monarchs to negotiate on

98 See the report of the ship the St Louis, 1746, MAR 4 JJ/92, AN; Desforges Boucher, various letters, 1762, in COL C/4/14, AN; Mayeur, reflections on the trade of Madagascar, n.d., in Mmoires sur Madagascar, ed. Froberville, in Add. 18136, BL. On struggles at Foulpointe: Mayeur, Voyage au pays dAncove par le pays dAncaye autrement dit des Baizangouzangoux, juillet 1783, in Mmoires pour servir lhistoire de Lisle de Madagascar, ed. Froberville, Add. Ms. 1812818129, BL. 99 Notice sur les affaires politiques de Madagascar, Madagascar, fonds historique, pices gnrales sur Madagascar et fondation des tablissements de Sainte-Marie (17851889), 1z/1 159, CAOM; Randrianja and Ellis, Madagascar, p. 121; Rantoandro, Hommes et rseaux, pp. 114118; the French expedition to Madagascar in 1820 under Milius, in MAD12/2, CAOM. 100 Ellis, Tom and Toakafo, p. 455. 101 French traders referred to the state as Ancove, or kingdom of the Hovas, and this kingdom became Merina under the rule of Andrianampoinimerina who ruled the kingdom after 1795. Randrianja and Ellis, Madagascar, p. 108.


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an even footing with European traders, who in turn provided leaders such as the Betsimisaraka with added legitimacy. On the other hand, the British and French viewed the history of piracy on Madagascar as demonstrating the successful extension of their military and economic power in the region. The removal of pirates from the island meant trading companies had successfully defended their right to enforce legal trading practices near Madagascar. These stories of contact with Madagascar, one focusing on the extension of European power through the suppression of piracy and the other demonstrating Malagasy penetration into global trading networks, came into direct conflict at the end of the eighteenth century. Throughout the Indian Ocean, the British sought to control the movements of traders, in part through labeling those traders ignoring their laws as pirates.102 This centuries-old practice occurred with increasing frequency during the nineteenth century, as assertions of British sovereignty expanded into new portions of the ocean.103 Shifting alliances and trade networks meant an increase in the incidence of piracy throughout the ocean. Pirates led attacks against ships in remote locales such as around Indonesia and in the South China Sea during this period of increased European policing of the seas.104 Along with their growing interest in the trade of the southwestern Indian Ocean, British officials identified Malagasy seaborne warriors as pirates. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, wave after wave of armed Malagasy warriors attacked the Comoro Islands and East Africa. The first Malagasy raids on the Comoros began during the 1790s. The raiders were probably Sakalava and Betsimisaraka, hired as mercenaries by leaders in Anjouan.105 It appears likely that the attacks were prompted by political conflicts within the Comoro Islands. Muslim sultans governed the islands but faced challenges to their rule from other leaders in the islands and perhaps from their own subjects. Just a
102 As other European groups, particularly the Portuguese, had done before them. See Protin-Dumon, Pirate and the Emperor, pp. 204207. See also Bose, A Hundred Horizons, p. 44; Risso, Cross-cultural Perceptions. 103 When they attempted to dominate trade in the Persian Gulf in 1805, they led attacks against a local group they labeled Qasimi pirates. Charles Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag: An Investigation into Qasimi Piracy, 17971820 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997), pp. 6367. 104 Eklf, Pirates in Paradise, pp. 514. 105 Jean Martin, Comores: Quatre les entre pirates et planteurs, 2 vols. (Paris: LHarmattan, 1983), 1:85. Robineau argues the raids were an extension of political struggles among Comorian leaders: Claude Robineau, LIslam aux Comores: Une tude dhistoire culturelle de lle dAnjouan in Arabes et Islamiss Madagascar et dans locan Indien (Revue de Madagascar, distribu par Hachette-Madagascar, 1967), p. 49.

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few years prior to the raids, rebellions in Anjouan disrupted the trade within the region. These rebellions were indicative of struggles on the island, perhaps between the leaders who managed oceanic trade and the people who produced the crops for export.106 The raids may have been originally led by Anjouani leaders, but then Malagasy warriors became intent on seizing slaves from other communities in the region. These armed warriors stole slaves and destroyed villages in the Comoro Islands and on the East African coast.107 The raids, taking place over a period of about twenty-five years, involved an estimated twenty-five thousand men and five hundred canoes.108 The warriors arrived in large canoes known as lakana or laka, probably fitted with outriggers and a sail.109 The canoes used in the raids were quite large and held up to sixty men.110 The motivations and identities of the attackers have remained uncertain, despite the existence of several sources, Portuguese, British, and Comorian, describing the attacks.111 Sources referred to the warriors as Malagasy or, in Comorian sources, the Wabuki, a term

106 Martin describes them as disputes from peasants and slaves against their ruler in Domoni, on Anjouan. Martin, Comores, 1:53. 107 See description in Henry Salt, A Voyage to Abyssinia, and Travels into the Interior of that Country, Executed under the Orders of the British Government in the Years 1809 and 1810, 1st ed. (London: Cass, 1967), p. 76. See also Gwyn Campbell, The Structure of Trade in Madagascar, 17501810, International Journal of African Historical Studies 26, no. 1 (1993): 14; Edward A. Alpers, Madagascar and Mozambique in the Nineteenth Century: The Era of the Sakalava Raids (18001820), Omaly sy Anio 5 6 (1977): 3753. Alpers suggests that commercial rivalries between Muslim traders in the region may have been to blame for the raids. 108 Martin, Comores, 1:88. 109 Alpers has cited descriptions of the canoes as laka in Portuguese sources, although they are also called lakana. Alpers, Madagascar and Mozambique, p. 42. Martin implies that they were lakan-drafitra, or canoes made of boards found primarily in southern Madagascar. Martin, Comores, 1:89. For a more recent description of their construction in western Madagascar, see Rita Astuti, People of the Sea: Identity and Descent among the Vezo of Madagascar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 1822. The use of outrigger canoes has been traced to Indonesia and East Africa. For linkages between the outriggers of Madagascar and those of East Africa and Indonesia, see James Hornell, The Common Origin of the Outrigger Canoes of Madagascar and East Africa, Man 20 (1920): 134139. In western Madagascar, Malagasy built canoes with a single or double outrigger. 110 They could be as large as 10 by 1.2 meters. Gwyn Campbell, An Economic History of Imperial Madagascar 1750 1895: The Rise and Fall of an Island Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 38. Scholars have speculated that these canoes had been used on the east coast of Madagascar in whale hunting. Gevrey refers to them as pirogues, or canoes, and compares them to those of eastern Madagascar. Alfred Gevrey, Essai Sur Les Comores (Pondichery: A. Saligny, 1870), pp. 106, 212. 111 The Portuguese sources are summarized by Alpers, Madagascar and Mozambique. The other sources are Gevrey, Essai sur les comores, and Said Bakari Bin Sultani Ahmed, The Swahili Chronicle of Ngazija, ed. Lyndon Harries (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1977).


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in use since the sixteenth century to describe the non-Muslim (not Antaloatra) Malagasy.112 According to one account, the raiders came from various coastal regions of Madagascar, but they met before traveling to the Comoros Islands together. The people were also described as Betsimisaraka, Sakalava, Antankara, and Antavaratra (the latter two groups from the northern region of Madagascar).113 The British described these early raids as acts of piracy and blamed the Sakalava for organizing the attacks. In 1796, the Sultan of Anjouan requested protection from the British and offered to cede control of the island to the British government. He asked the governor in Bombay to take his island, on condition of protecting it from the depredations committed by the inhabitants of the northern part of the island of Madagascar. 114 In 1796, the eldest son of the sultan again visited British officials in Bombay. He begged them to take control of the island. In return for granting the island to the British, the prince asked for a ship with several hundred guns and instruction on the use of these weapons.115 The British, consumed with struggles elsewhere, ignored this plea for assistance. The raiders continued to attack various island communities, primarily on Anjouan and Mayotte. The Malagasy captured many elites, male and female, and demanded ransom for their release. The warriors returned to Madagascar in their canoes after receiving the ransoms.116 Following multiple attacks between 1797 and 1814, many Comorians fled from the coast and into the interiors of their islands. Some migrated to the east coast of Africa to escape the raiders. Several villages in Mayotte and Anjouan were deserted after the first years of these attacks.117 The people who remained fortified their villages as a defense against future attacks, and these walls are still visible on the islands.118 In 1800, the sultan Abdulla of Anjouan again asked the English for

112 Ahmed, Swahili Chronicle, p. 22. On Buki as a term for non-Muslim Malagasy, see a description by Ramusio of Madagascar in 1550 in which he states that the Arabs and Swahili called the Malagasy Bouki, COACM, 1:99. 113 Martin, Comores, 1:83. It seems likely that Antankara was ruled by Lamboine, a Sakalava ally and tributary, during the late eighteenth century. The Antavaratra probably came from the northeast coast. 114 Memo relative to the offer of the King of Baba to cede the Island of Johanna to the Company, 1796, Home Miscellaneous, India Office Records, IOR/H/511, BL, f. 1. 115 Ibid. See also Abdulla, king of Joanna, letter to EIC governor in Bombay, 10 July 1800, India Office Records, Home Miscellaneous, IOR/H/473, BL, f. 241242. 116 Ahmed, Swahili Chronicle, pp. 5253, 101. 117 Gevrey, Essai sur les Comores, pp. 212213. 118 Martin Ottenheimer, Marriage in Domoni: Husbands and Wives in an Indian Ocean Community (Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, 1985), p. 20.

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help in this unjust war with Madagascar.119 In 1807, he attempted to cede all four Comoro Islands to the British, but they dismissed his claim to the throne.120 Despite the English dismissal of Comorian complaints, other European groups became drawn into conflicts with these Malagasy maritime warriors. After the attack on a Portuguese vessel near northern Madagascar and the Comorian islands in 1805, the Portuguese in Mozambique complained of attackers visiting East Africa.121 Due to the timing and similarities of the raids, all of these attempts appeared linked, and the raiders were probably Malagasy. Portuguese sources described the attacks on Mozambique. They arrived on multiple occasions, taking hostages and slaves, and stealing food along the coast. Portuguese attempts to end the raids failed. The raiders targeted leaders and ports in East Africa and halted only when challenged by African leaders. Zanzibari soldiers defeated the invaders in 1816. After their defeat, the leader of the raiders swore to the leader of Zanzibar that they would not return. He also promised they would cease attacking the Umani [Omani] and Portuguese coasts of East Africa. 122 The raids did not profoundly alter the commercial relationships between the Malagasy and communities on the Mozambique coast or in the Comoro Islands. Communities in these regions were accustomed to sea battles and struggles for control of commerce and political leadership. In fact, attacks of this kind may have been a more common feature of the landscape of the southwestern Indian Ocean than scholars have previously assumed.123 These raids were aggressive manifestations of the increasing role of the Malagasy in the commerce of the southwestern Indian Ocean. Following these attacks, the west coast of Madagascar became an important transshipment point for commodities from East Africa and the Middle East. Conclusion The attacks nevertheless marked a new era of relations between the Malagasy and the British. During the nineteenth century, the British
Abdulla, July 1800, IOR/H/473, BL, f. 2412. Letter on events in Anjouan, 1807, IOR/H/511, BL, f. 7. 121 Ahmed, Swahili Chronicle, p. 99. 122 Ibid., pp. 4445. 123 Examples of canoes being used in warfare in Madagascar: on the east coast: the ship journal of the Duc dAnjou, 1737, MAR 4 JJ/76, AN; on the use of dhows in warfare in the Comoros, see Stanes, Add. 24931, BL, f. 96.
120 119


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focused on creating a peaceful, commercially productive zone in the southwest Indian Ocean.124 By 1814, following the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, the British controlled portions of India and southern Africa, as well as Mauritius. Now that they possessed military and commercial bases on the shores of the Indian Ocean, the British desired direct access to the trade of Madagascar. The British made use of the Malagasy raids to argue for an extension of their power, just as they had a century earlier. The government became increasingly obsessed with ending the slave trade within the Indian Ocean, as well as in the Atlantic.125 British officials used the attacks and the resulting upheaval in the region as evidence for the need to abolish the slave trade in the Indian Ocean.126 They believed the slave trade hampered their access to valuable commodities such as gold, ivory, and cloth. The Betsimisaraka and Sakalava invasions threatened what they hoped would become a prosperous economic zone, once the slave trade was abolished.127 In contrast to their handling of the pirates during the 1690s, the British were able to decisively intervene in Madagascar during the 1820s and assert their influence in the conduct of trade on the coasts of the island. The British began by developing a close relationship with the Merina king, Radama I. In part to end the slave trade on the east and west coasts, the British agreed to assist Radama in expanding his rule from the central region, around Antananarivo. In 1817, Radama signed a proclamation for the abolition of the slave trade.128 In the treaty,
124 Such ideas are repeatedly expressed by British abolitionists with increasing frequency toward the end of the nineteenth century. See, for instance, Bartle Freres records during his visit to Zanzibar, 18721873, especially Frere, letter, March 10, 1873, AA 1/10, Zanzibar National Archives (henceforth ZNA), f. 192. 125 On the abolition of the slave trade in the Indian Ocean, and particularly around Madagascar, see Gwyn Campbell, Madagascar and Mozambique in the Slave Trade, in The Economics of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century, ed. W. G. ClarenceSmith (London: Frank Cass, 1989), pp. 166193. 126 Despite the identification of the Sakalava as the pirates by the English, most scholars now allow for some ambiguity in the identities. For instance: Gwyn Campbell, The Structure of Trade, p. 14. 127 British officials also began exerting influence on the Omani sultan, now based at Zanzibar. Minutes from evidence taken before the Select Committee, 20 July 1871, in the correspondence of Lt Col CP Rigby, Consul at Zanzibar, AA 12/2, ZNA, ff. 1501. See also Norman Robert Bennett, Arab versus European: Diplomacy and War in NineteenthCentury East Central Africa (New York: Africana Pub. Co., 1986). 128 Proclamation of Radama, King of Madagascar, for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 23 October, 1817, in Hertslets commercial Treaties: A Collection of Treaties and Conventions, between Great Britain and Foreign Powers . . . (London: Butterworth, 1841), 3:240. See also the other treaty between Radama and Great Britain in 1817, in ibid., 1:354; the proclamations and additional articles released by Radama in 1820, in ibid., 3:240242.

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he was described as the king of Madagascar. He urged his brother, Jean Rene, the chief of Tamatave, and other chiefs on the coasts of the island to end the slave trade. He also requested that they abstain from any maritime predatory excursion whatever, particularly against the Comoro Islands or East African coast. He stated that the culprits would earn his most severe displeasure, and of incurring the punishment due to pirates. In so doing, the treaty implicitly targeted the Sakalava and Betsimisaraka. The treaty gave Radama the right to seize any slave ships operating around Madagascar and to punish slave traders as pirates. In return for signing this treaty, the British agreed to provide Radama with military assistance, in the form of training and materials, especially weapons.129 The British observed in 1821 that Radama was successfully overseeing the abolition of the slave trade and adhering religiously to his treaties and agreements with the British.130 British traders had encouraged the Merina state to extend control over the Betsimisaraka confederation and the Sakalava Empire.131 With British military assistance, Radama extended his control first to the east and forced the ruler of Tamatave to recognize Merina control. The Merina government implemented strict labor controls and taxation throughout the region. Producing exports and making the Merina Empire more productive became one of the goals of its rulers.132 Taking control of the ports held by the Betsimisaraka was inseparable from this goal. Merina armies also seized a number of key Sakalava ports: Vohmar, Diego Suarez, Majunga (Mahajanga), and St. Augustines Bay.133 Meanwhile, the French established colonies on the islands surrounding Madagascar, including Nosy Be and le Sainte Marie. They gradually influenced local groups and tried to gain control of trade within the region.134 Both the British and French tried to dominate commerce from the island under their power through a series of alliances with rulers on the island. The British supported the Merina, but

Proclamation of Radama, in ibid. Farquhar, letter, 8 December 1821, IOR / F/4/913, BL, ff. 272273. Whether or not this was the case was a matter of debate. 131 Campbell, An Economic History, pp. 1317. 132 Ibid., pp. 715. 133 Extract of political letter, 1 December 1824, IOR / F/4/905, BL, ff. 9 10. 134 See especially the negotiations between the French, now based at the northwest island of Nosy Be and the surrounding Sakalava tributary states throughout the mid to late nineteenth century: various letters exchanged, Madagascar, fonds historique, pices diverses concernant Nossi-B, Mayotte et la cte Nord-Ouest de Madagascar (18411897), 4z /1432, CAOM.



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the French gave only occasional assistance to the Sakalava against the Merina invaders.135 Throughout the nineteenth century, Merina leaders struggled to rule and unite a divided island. After several decades of protracted warfare, French colonial forces invaded and took control of Madagascar in 1896. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the arrival of Euro-American pirates presented opportunities to European and Malagasy leaders. English and French officials used the suppression of piracy to excuse the extension of their power into the Indian Ocean throughout this period. Malagasy elites asserted historical links with pirates as a source of power within global trade networks. During the nineteenth century, however, European states became more determined to suppress modes of trade and power connecting disparate regions of the southwestern Indian Ocean. They did so by identifying warriors and traders from coastal Madagascar as pirates. This act also undermined elites within Madagascar who relied upon trade with Euro-American, Swahili, and Arab merchants for their political power. The reoccurrence of piracy off the coasts of Madagascar illuminated an important process that had begun elsewhere in the Indian Ocean: the European domination of commerce by labeling other trading networks and the use of violence within these networks as illegitimate.136 Malagasy monarchs, intent on controlling foreign trade, found their powers eroded by encroaching maritime laws. With the removal of commercial possibilities, the elites of Madagascar found themselves depending upon the British and French to support their claims to power, culminating in the French colonization of the island. Throughout the world, similar processes were playing out, as Europeans gradually eliminated or co-opted non-European leaders into their state-building projects. With the extension of British legal controls in the southwestern Indian Ocean, transnational identities came under threat, ending a period of remarkable political and cultural innovation in coastal Madagascar.

135 See, for instance, Morel, note, 1842, in MAD17/3233, CAOM; French note in 1880, in 4z/4560, CAOM. 136 This process was not complete. For instance, on the continuation of the dhow trade during the period of European colonization, see Erik Gilbert, Dhows and the Colonial Economy in Zanzibar, 18601970 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004), pp. 84109.