King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Voyage to Madagascar: Thomas Locke Lewis and the Anglo-Merina Treaty of 1817


Arabic alphabet relating to a voyage to MadagascarArabic alphabet from Voyage to MadagascarLewis shares the developing contemporary interest in philology, that is, the study of the structure, historical development and relationships of languages or language families.

For example, he claims that ‘The characters of the Madagascar language assimilate with those commonly used in the Hindoostanee and Persian languages.’

Lewis speculates that the Ovah and Ishmaelites ‘are intermixed’ through ‘intercourse with the Arabs’, a factor which he regards as having had a philological hand in the Ovah’s language (p 55).

Other aspects of writing culture also interest Lewis. When leaving Yvondrou he saw bulrushes on a bank and records that their ancient use was as papyrus, which was still their function in the valley of Amboule, 51 miles north of Fort Dauphin. As for writing implements, bamboo was used, and bark from the Arandrato tree was used to prepare ink (pp 17-18, 69-72).

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