Madagascar faces the southeastern coasts of Africa, from which it is 400 km at the narrowest point of the Mozambique Channel. The island of Madagascar is conventionally included in the African continent although for many peculiarities it can be considered a land in its own right: it hosts unique plant and animal species and is populated in part by people coming from monsoon Asia who have introduced elements to the island own cultural heritage. Located on the ancient colonial routes to the Far East, Madagascar was disputed in the 10th century. XIX by the British and French finding it under the dominion of the Merina, one of its most advanced peoples, a unifying and nationalistic drive, however, suffocated by the imposition of French domination. The conquest of independence in 1960, however, did not prevent years of neocolonial accomplice. The country was subject to a socialist regime from 1975 to 1991 and in the following years it experienced political instability with an alternation of presidents often dismissed as a result of street clashes.
Madagascar is a republic. The Constitution, approved by a national referendum in August 1992, gave birth to the Third Republic. The bicameral Parliament is made up of the National Assembly and the Senate; the President of the Republic is elected by universal suffrage for 5 years, appoints and dismisses the Prime Minister. Justice is administered by the Supreme Court, the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal. There are also courts of first instance for civil and commercial matters, ordinary and special criminal courts and economic courts that deal with crimes in economic matters. The death penalty is in effect, but executions have not taken place since 1958. The armed forces are divided into the three traditional weapons. The gendarmerie also works alongside these. Military service is carried out on a compulsory basis, lasts 18 months, but there is the possibility of a replacement civilian service. With independence, the aim was to encourage the increase of education, but its distribution between males and females is profoundly unequal. However, the illiteracy rate is constantly decreasing (29.3% in 2006). According to andyeducation, education is compulsory between 6 and 14 years of age. The capital Antananarivo hosts a university campus.
The rainforest dominates on the eastern side, where it presents a wide variety of species, even peculiar ones. It thins out towards the central plateau where the vegetation has been extensively compromised by man. The practice of fires (tavy) to prepare the land to be cultivated is due to a degradation of the forest which has left secondary formations (savoka) of the savannah type, in which the palm tree is often imposed. The western slope alternates extensive grasslands of grasses with savannah formations that become markedly xerophilous in the southern section, where baobabs grow, of which there are eight endemic species of Madagascar. From the faunal point of view, the country, with its neighboring island groups (Comoros, Aldabra, Seychelles and Mascarene), constitutes a zoogeographic region in its own right that presents very strong divergences with respect to African fauna and similarities with other parts of the world. This is explained by the paleogeographic vicissitudes and the long isolation of the island from the neighboring continent, for which a very characteristic fauna has been able to evolve, with entire exclusive families and significant absences of numerous groups present in Africa. Mammals are made up mainly from Prosimians due to three unique families: Lemurids, Indridi and Daubentonidi (with only rare aye-aye). Terrestrial carnivores are missing, with the exception of some exclusive Viverrids, including the fossa, the largest indigenous predator. There are numerous insects on the island, not a few of which belong to endemic species, including many butterflies. Among the birds, the Mesitornitidae, Leptosomatidae, Filepittidae, Vangidae and Rafidi families, extinct from the Mascarene islands (eg dodo), are exclusive to Madagascar. Chameleons abound among reptiles, while lizards and vipers are absent; also interesting is the absence of the Agamids (present in Africa), replaced by peculiar iguanids (absent in Africa and typical of the Americas), and the presence of over 200 species of frogs, including the tomato frog. As mentioned, the extraordinary ecosystem of Madagascar is threatened by the destruction of the forest by man, which has caused very serious damage to the fauna, causing the disappearance or the risk of extinction for many species. 4.7% of the land area is protected as a protected area. There are 19 national parks in the country, including Baly Bay, North Mananara and Amber Mountain and 2 marine national parks, Mananara Nord and Sahamalaza. There are also two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Tsingy de Bemaraha Nature Reserve (1990) and the Atsinanana Rainforests (2007).
Starting from the sec. V-VI Madagascar was the destination of Indonesian migrations that probably ended up absorbing groups of black populations settled there; the first Arab contacts seem to have been after the century. XI. The island was sighted in 1500 by the Portuguese Diogo Dias: the first attempts at evangelization did not have lasting results, as well as a settlement attempted by the English in 1644-45 and by the French (1642-74). In the sec. XVIII the French settled again in Madagascar (Fort-Dauphin and Antongil bay) and occupied the island of Santa Maria, opening an agency in Tamatave (Toamasina) in 1803. In the sec. XV and XVI had formed various local kingdoms (Merina, Betsileo, Antemoro and Antesaka). At the beginning of the century. XVI dates back to the Sakalava conquest which extended to almost half of the island to decay in the following century. In the first half of the century. XVIII Ratsimilaho, son of an English pirate and a local princess, founded the kingdom of Betsimisaraka on the western coast, which however had already disintegrated at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Instead, the Merina kingdoms flourished, thanks to Andrianampoinimerina (1787-1810), a capable and strong-willed king who unified all his people, subdued Betsileo, discouraged Sakalava raids and greatly extended the borders of his kingdom. The son Radama I (1810-28) extended his dominion over two thirds of the island; assisted by European advisers and supported by the missionaries of the London Missionary Society, he promoted the economic and cultural development of the kingdom. Queen Ranavalona I (1828-61) took an uncompromising attitude towards England and France, while Radama II (1861-63), who had allowed the Europeans to return, was assassinated for giving land to foreigners. Queen Rasoherina (1863-68) appointed Rainilaiarivony as prime minister, who later married the next two queens, Ranavalona II (1869-83) and Ranavalona III (1883-95), practically becoming the arbiter of Malagasy politics. As relations with France worsened, this intervened with arms (1883) and imposed a new treaty on Ranavalona III which was prejudicial to the independence of Madagascar. The resulting state of tension induced the French government in 1895 to send a strong expeditionary force that forced the queen to recognize the protectorate of France. In 1896 the island was declared a French colony; in 1897 the monarchy was abolished. The island was pacified by General Gallieni who was its governor from 1897 to 1905. The first nationalist reactions took place between the two world wars. The birth of the first political parties that aspired to independence was followed in March 1947 by a widespread revolt which was severely repressed by France. The political scene was revived only after a few years when new parties and new men surfaced, including Philibert Tsiranana, founder in 1956 of the Parti Social Démocrate Malgache et Comorien which soon had a national following.