Currency and Currency Problems in Imperial Madagascar, 1820–1895
This chapter examines the role of currency in Madagascar in the period 1820–1895. This era was characterized by the rise of Imerina, a formerly landlocked kingdom in the central highlands of Madagascar, to the preeminent political power in the island, and by its attempts to ward off European colonial ambitions through an ambitious programme of modernisation that included attempted industrialisation through import substitution, the development of cash crops, notably coffee, sugar, vanilla and cocoa, the export of animal and forest products, notably oxen and hides, rubber, wax and hardwoods, and the exploitation of extensive gold fields. In Merina-controlled regions of Madagascar, namely the central and eastern regions of the island, foreign coinage dominated commercial transactions, although counterfeiting and disruptions to trade caused major problems that remained unresolved up to the French conquest of the island in 1895. This chapter demonstrates that currency issues formed a core reason for the failure of indigenous authorities to retain independence.