The diplomatic archives of the Merina kingdom have been part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register since 2009. They illustrate the encounter between the precolonial kingdom of Madagascar and the colonisers. These documents are a rare and perfect example of the diplomacy of a non-Western state in the nineteenth century.
The Malagasy Foreign Office was a cornerstone of the kingdom in the nineteenth century and up to the end of the 19th century, diplomacy was a vital tool used by the Merina Kingdom to preserve its independence. The international policy of the kingdom was one of the key reasons behind its success within the island at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1817, the British Crown recognised the Merina king as the king of Madagascar, an event which gave the kingdom international status. The documents held in the archives reveal the influence the kingdom obtained amongst different Western governments.
The tropical weather of Madagascar puts the documents at great risk. Every year, cyclones flood the capital where the archive is located. The power grid of Antananarivo is obsolete, and often causes fires, and the documents are often stolen.
Stemming from a previous project digitising the archives of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony, the project digitised the entire diplomatic archive, which counts over 44,000 folios. The entire staff of the National Archives were involved in the project and fully trained.