Antananarivo, Madagascar History


Kingdom of Imerina

Old city gate

from Wikipedia by Lemurbaby CC BY-SA 3.0

Unlike most capital cities in southern Africa, Antananarivo was already a major city before the colonial era. After expelling the Vazimba who inhabited the town at the peak of Analamanga hill, Andrianjaka chose the site for his rova (fortified royal compound), which expanded over time to enclose the royal palaces and the tombs of Merina royalty. The city was established in around 1610 or 1625 according to varying accounts. Early Merina kings used fanampoana (statute labor) to construct a massive system of irrigated paddy fields and dikes around the city to provide adequate rice for the growing population. These paddy fields, of which the largest is called the Betsimitatatra, continue to produce rice.
Successive Merina sovereigns ruled over the Kingdom of Imerina from Analamanga through King Andriamasinavalona's reign. This sovereign gave the growing city its current name; he established the Andohalo town square outside the town gate, where all successive sovereigns delivered their royal speeches and announcements to the public, and assigned the names of numerous locations within the city based on the names of similar sites in the nearby village of Antananarivokely. Andriamasinavalona designated specific territories for the hova (commoners) and each andriana (noble) subcaste, both within the neighborhoods of Antananarivo and in the countryside surrounding the capital. These territorial divisions were strictly enforced; members of subcastes were required to live within their designated territories and were not authorized to stay for extended periods in the territories reserved for others. Numerous fady (taboos), including injunctions against the construction of wooden houses by non-nobles and the presence of swine within the city limits, were imposed.
Upon Andriamasinavalona's death in 1710, Imerina split into four warring quadrants, and Antananarivo was made the capital of the southern district. During the 77-year civil war that followed, the eastern district's capital at Ambohimanga rose in prominence. The last king of Ambohimanga, Andrianampoinimerina, successfully conquered Antananarivo in 1793; he reunited the provinces of Imerina, ending the civil war. He moved the kingdom's political capital back to Antananarivo in 1794, and declared Ambohimanga the kingdom's spiritual capital, a role it still maintains. Andrianampoinimerina created a large marketplace in Analakely, establishing the city's economic center.

Kingdom of Madagascar

Lake Anosy was created in the 19th century to provide hydraulic power to industrial factories.

from Wikipedia by Lemurbaby CC BY-SA 3.0

By the time Andrianampoinimerina's son Radama I had ascended the throne upon his father's death in 1810, Antananarivo was the largest and most economically important city on the island, with a population of over 80,000 inhabitants. Radama opened the city to the first European settlers, artisan missionaries of the London Missionary Society (LMS) who arrived in 1820 and opened the city's first public schools. James Cameron introduced brickmaking to the island and created Lake Anosy to generate hydraulic power for industrial manufacturing. Radama established a military training ground on a flat plain called Mahamasina at the base of Analamanga near the lake. Radama's subjugation of other Malagasy ethnic groups brought nearly two-thirds of the island under his control. The British diplomats who concluded trade treaties with Radama recognized him as the "ruler of Madagascar", a position he and his successors claimed despite never managing to impose their authority over the larger portion of the island's south. Thereafter, Merina sovereigns declared Antananarivo the capital of the entire island.
Radama's successor Ranavalona I invited a shipwrecked craftsman named Jean Laborde to construct the tomb of Prime Minister Rainiharo, and Manjakamiadana (built 1839–1841), the largest palace at the Rova. Laborde also produced a wide range of industrial products at factories in the highland village Mantasoa and a foundry in the Antananarivo neighborhood Isoraka. Ranavalona oversaw improvements to the city's infrastructure, including the construction of the city's two largest staircases at Antaninarenina and Ambondrona, which connect la ville moyenne ("the middle town") to the central marketplace at Analakely. In 1867, following a series of fires in the capital, Queen Ranavalona II issued a royal decree that permitted the use of stone and brick construction in buildings other than tombs. LMS missionaries' first brick house was built in 1869; it bore a blend of English, Creole and Malagasy design and served as a model for a new style of house that rapidly spread throughout the capital and across the highlands. Termed the trano gasy ("Malagasy house"), it is typically a two-story, brick building with four columns on the front that support a wooden veranda. In the latter third of the 19th century, these houses quickly replaced most of the traditional wooden houses of the city's aristocratic class. The growing number of Christians in Imerina prompted the construction of stone churches throughout the highlands, as well as four memorial cathedrals on key sites of martyrdom among early Malagasy Christians under the reign of Ranavalona I.
Until the mid 19th century, the city remained largely concentrated around the Rova of Antananarivo on the highest peak, an area today referred to as la haute ville or la haute ("upper town"). As the population grew, the city expanded to the west; by the late 19th century it extended to the northern hilltop neighborhood of Andohalo, an area of low prestige until British missionaries made it their preferred residential district and built one of the city's memorial churches here from 1863 to 1872. From 1864 to 1894, Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony governed Madagascar alongside three successive queens, Rasoherina, Ranavalona II and Ranavalona III, effecting policies that further transformed the city. In 1881, he reinstated mandatory universal education first introduced in 1820 under Radama I, requiring the construction of numerous schools and colleges, including teacher training colleges staffed by missionaries and the nation's first pharmacy, medical college, and modern hospital. Rainilaiarivony built the Andafiavaratra Palace in 1873 as his residence and office at a site near the royal palace.

French Madagascar

The colonial French Residency serves today as a presidential office and has been renamed the Ambohitsorohitra Palace.

from Wikipedia by Lemurbaby CC BY-SA 3.0

The French military invaded Antananarivo in September 1894, prompting the queen's surrender after a cannon shell blasted a hole through a building at the Rova, causing major casualties. The damage was never repaired. Andohalo square was remodeled to feature a gazebo, walkways, and planted landscaping. Claiming the island as a colony, the French administration retained Antananarivo as its capital and transcribed its name as Tananarive. They chose Antaninarenina as the site for the French Governor General's Residency; upon independence it was renamed Ambohitsorohitra Palace and converted into presidential offices. Under the French, tunnels were constructed through two of the city's largest hills, connecting disparate districts and facilitating the town's expansion. Streets were laid with cobblestones and later paved; sewer systems and electricity infrastructure were introduced. Water, previously obtained from springs at the foot of the hill, was brought from the Ikopa River.
This period saw a major expansion of la ville moyenne, which spread along the lower hilltops and slopes of the city centered around the French residency. Modern urban planning was applied in la ville basse ("lower town"), which expanded from the base of the city's central hills into the surrounding rice fields. Major boulevards like Avenue de l'Indépendance, planned commercial areas like the arcades lining either side of the avenue, large parks, city squares, and other landmark features were built. A railway system connecting Soarano station at one end of the Avenue de l'Indépendance in Antananarive with Toamasina and Fianarantsoa was established in 1897. Beyond these planned spaces, neighborhoods densely populated by working class Malagasy expanded without state oversight or control.
The city expanded rapidly after World War II; by 1950 its population had grown to 175,000. Roads connecting Antananarivo to surrounding towns were expanded and paved. The first international airport was constructed at Arivonimamo, 45km outside the city; this was replaced in 1967 with Ivato International Airport approximately 15km from the city center. The University of Antananarivo was constructed in the Ankatso neighborhood and the Museum of Ethnology and Paleontology was also built. A city plan written in 1956 created suburban zones where large houses and gardens were established for the wealthy. In 1959, severe floods in la ville basse prompted the building of large scale embankments along the edges of the Betsimitatatra rice fields and the establishment of new ministerial complexes on newly drained land in the Anosy neighborhood.


Senate building

from Wikipedia by Lemurbaby CC BY-SA 3.0

After independence in 1960, the pace of growth increased further. The city's population reached 1.4 million by the end of the 20th century; in 2013, it was estimated at nearly 2.1 million. Uncontrolled urban sprawl has challenged the city's infrastructure, producing shortages of clean water and electricity, sanitation and public health problems, and heavy traffic congestion. There are more than 5,000 church buildings in the city and its suburbs, including an Anglican and a Roman Catholic cathedral. Antananarivo is the see city of Madagascar's Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The city has repeatedly been the site of large demonstrations and violent political clashes, including the 1972 rotaka that brought down President Philibert Tsiranana and the 2009 Malagasy political crisis, which resulted in Andry Rajoelina replacing Marc Ravalomanana as head of state.