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THE QUAKER CONTRIBUTION TO EDUCATION IN MADAGASCAR, 1867-1895 By Bonar A. Gow* Protestantism came to the island of Madagascar in the year 1818 when two Congregational missionaries and their families landed at the east coast port of Tamatave. Sponsored by the London Missionary Society, these two men had as their aim the conversion of the inhabitants of Imerina, the plateau kingdom of the Merina peoples, and by 1820 Christianity had reached the capital, Antananarivo . The then ruling monarch, King Radama I(r.18??- ?828), had just embarked upon a programme of military expansion and modernisation of the state, and he welcomed the arrival of a foreigner who was willing to teach his people how to read and write their own language. A school was opened, churches built, and soon converts began to appear. Radama's successor, Queen Ranavalona I (r.1828-1861), distrusted the new religion, however, and in 1835 she expelled the European missionaries and commenced to execute or punish all those Malagasy who professed Christianity. Persecution served only to harden the spirits of the new converts, however; by 1861, the year the queen died, their numbers had risen from a few hundred to between seven and ten thousand.1 King Radama II(r.l861-1863) displayed a markedly different attitude towards Christianity; not only had he become a secret Christian in the 1850's, but when his mother died he threw the island open to all Christian mission societies. His successors trod a similar path and Christianity flourished from 1861 onwards. Missionary activity amongst the Merina and other Malagasy peoples became intense, and in all six Protestant societies and the Jesuits entered the island before the arrival of the French in 1895. Large numbers of Protestant converts were made and even larger numbers of adherents were attracted to worship services; many thousands were taken into mission schools and church colleges. This *Director of Academic Studies, Northern Lights College, Dawson Creek, B.C. 1. Andrew Burgess, Zanhary in South Madagascar (Minneapolis: Board of Foreign Missions, 1932), p. 120; James Sibree, The Madagascar Mission (London: London Missionary Society, 1907), p. 41. 87 88QUAKER HISTORY rapid growth was never equalled in mainland Africa before the coming of the European powers. It was in this environment that the Friends' Foreign Missions Association established a progressive school system, the likes of which was never duplicated until after the Malagasy obtained independence in 1960. This paper is an attempt to describe the educational work of the Friends' mission and to assess its impact upon Madagascar before the French invasion. It will endeavour to sketch in the beginnings of Quaker mission work in England, and then to outline the type of school system created in Imerina by the then serving missionaries . Last of all, the legacy of this small but important mission will be evaluated with an eye to determining its contribution to life in pre-colonial Madagascar. The data for this study were gathered from Quaker, Anglican, and Congregational archives in London, England, private papers in Birmingham, England, and the Archives de la République Malgache, Tananarive, Malagasy Republic. Quaker involvement in the evangelisation of Madagascar came about not so much as a result of Quaker initiative; rather, British Friends were drawn to the island by a member of the L.M.S. The senior Congregational missionary in the island, William Ellis, aware that the lower class, artisan backgrounds of most of his fellow workers were not conducive to founding and maintaining a system of mission schools and colleges, approached his wife's nephew, Joseph S. Sewell, in search of assistance. Ellis, in touch with developments within the Society of Friends, knew that interest in mission work was growing in Great Britain, and he hoped that Sewell and other schoolteachers would join him in strengthening the educational programme of the L.M.S. Sewell, a supporter of foreign missions, accepted the offer of service in Madagascar. Despite the Evangelical Revival, involvement in foreign missionary work did not affect the British members of the Society of Friends during the first sixty years of the nineteenth century. Overseas missions were not really a part of the British Quaker tradition before about 1865.2 At first...


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