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Voyage to Madagascar: Thomas Locke Lewis and the Anglo-Merina Treaty of 1817

Radama's continuing controls

Whatever kind of dwelling a person lived in, he or she was subject to the rules relating to property and movement set out by Radama.

Whilst at a village named Yvondrou, Lewis hears a Chief, sent by Radama to that village, and also to Tamatave, inform the people that the King had introduced private property. This did not mean, however, that the Ovah always respected private property, in Lewis’s view. He believed that there was an ‘unwarrantable desire of the Ovah for destroying and laying waste’ – a conclusion he came to when on 12 July he observed damage done in Yvondrou.

On the movement of peoples, Lewis records that: ‘The native of one district is not as liberty to quit the same, and settle in another; if he is discovered in emigrating without leave, he is arrested in the province or district to which he belongs’ (p 33, 51, 79).

Radama also controlled the use of drugs. As Lewis states: ‘Previous to our arrival at Madagascar the Ovahs were prohibited the use of tobacco and spirits, on pain of slavery, or death; but when Radama reached Tamatave, permission was granted’.

Tobacco appears to have been particularly desirable, with Lewis stating: ‘there was scarcely a thing they were not willing to part with in order to procure some of this intoxicating herb’ (p 53).

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