Madagascar, separated from the African continent by the Mozambique Channel, has faced problems similar to those of many of the African countries in the transition from colonial rule to self-government, from a tribally oriented culture to a twentieth-century political entity. As early as 1947, when many of the newly emerging African countries had not yet articulated their national aspirations and goals, the Malagasy staged a bloody revolt of enormous intensity and almost succeeded in overthrowing French control. But now, fifteen years later, the independent Malagasy Republic is one of France's closest allies. Similarly, today, when some of the most prominent spokesmen for African self-government maintain that opposition parties impair the successful functioning of new governments, Madagascar offers proof that new governments can tolerate opposition parties and continue to function effectively.
Despite all these parallels, and despite the lesson Madagascar can teach, it has been ignored in the growing body of literature about the history and problems of newly independent countries of Africa. Mr. Kent's concise and scholarly delineation of the ethnological, political, and economic background of the Malagasy Republic - the first English-language work dealing with this country - constitutes a major, much-needed contribution to the field of African studies.
In the introduction to this examination of what he calls "an Africa in miniature," the author states: "It is the aim of this work to steer clear of methodological pitfalls, to be simple, to worship no idols, to be sympathetic to both France and the Malagasy, to combine a certain amount of scholarship with intuition, an, above all, to avoid Lasswellian depths."
The Author: Raymond K. Kent is a political scientist specializing in Middle Eastern and African studies. He has contributed articles to scholarly journals and is the author of a chapter on Madagascar that will appear in the forthcoming book The Educated African.