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Posted to Maritime Musings (by on December 20, 2013

A legendary pirate stronghold for over 50 years

Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean located 250 miles off the southeast coast of Africa.  Now home to the Republic of Madagascar, the island was first settled by natives of Borneo, who arrived in waves by outrigger canoe between 350 BC and 550 AD.  Arab traders arrived in about 700 AD, introducing Islam and the Arabic script.  Bantu tribesmen crossed over from modern-day Mozambique in large numbers in about 1,000 AD.  On August 10, 1500, the Portuguese explorer Diogo Dias (brother of Bartolomeu Dias) sighted the island during his second voyage to India.  The French established trading posts along the east coast of Madagascar during the late 1600’s, mostly to support their ventures in India.  From the last quarter of the eighteenth century through the first quarter of the nineteenth century, a series of pirate strongholds were established on Madagascar.  By that time, numerous merchant ships, flying the flags of the British, French, Dutch, and others, were making regular voyages from India, the Spice Islands, China, and Japan to Europe.  The merchant ships were richly laden and largely unprotected.  As important, naval patrols were few in number and there was no effective government on Madagascar – a precursor to modern-day Somalia.  Pirates including Thomas Tew and Captain (William) Kidd operated out of Ranter Bay, Île Ste Marie, and the Bay of Saint-Augustin, as well as other locations.  The legendary pirate stronghold of Libertalia (if it existed at all) was on the small island of Nosy Boroha off the northeast coast of Madagascar.  The pirates were succeeded by slave-traders.  In 1883, France invaded the island.  After some years of resistance, opposition was quelled and France formally annexed Madagascar in 1896.  The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed in 1958 and the island obtained full independence on June 26, 1960.  

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