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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:An Industrial Experiment in Pre-Colonial Africa: The Case of Imperial Madagascar, 1825-1861
Author:Campbell, Gwyn
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:Madagascar
Subjects:economic history
industrial development
Merina polity
Development and Technology
History and Exploration
Economics and Trade
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Labor and Employment
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/2637197
Abstract:The period 1820-1861 witnessed an industrial experiment in the Merina empire, Madagascar, which is possibly unique in tropical Africa for four main reasons: it occurred in the precolonial era, was contemporaneous with industrial experiments in Western Europe and North America, it was the result of indigenous enterprise, and it involved large-scale factory machine-based production. This paper examines the rise and nature of this industry, which was based on 'fanompoana', or compulsory and unremunerated labour, and analyses the reasons for its failure. The debate about proto-industrialization and the question of the role of the State in initiating manufacturing, both generate issues useful in considering the origins of the industrial experiment in 19th-century Madagascar. It is here contended that, in the ultimate analysis, the State played the decisive role, but that the opportunity cost of industrialization, namely the undermining of the agricultural sector upon which the total economy depended, was too high and doomed the industrial experiment to failure. Notes, ref., sum.