Madagascar’s earliest inhabitants are thought to have been the Malayo-Indonesian people who crossed the Indian Ocean from Southeast Asia, c. 1,300 years ago. They brought subsistence crops such as spices, rice, bananas, coconuts and mung beans, some of which they also introduced to coastal eastern Africa. Arab traders arrived on the northern coast from the 10th century, followed by European traders in the 16th century. The Europeans failed to set up trading settlements because of hostile resistance by local Malagasy warriors, but in the late 1600s, European pirates colonized eastern Madagascar. By the 1700s, the Sakalavas established the first kingdom of Madagascar in the west, with the rival Merina kingdom beginning its expansion in 1787 at the accession of King Andrianompoinimerina. By the time of the death his successor, King Radama, in 1828, a series of military campaigns had extended the power of the Merina kingdom over much of central-eastern Madagascar. In 1818 Radama had opened up his kingdom to Protestant missionaries who spread Christianity.
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