The Sacred Musket. Tactics, Technology, and Power in Eighteenth-Century Madagascar
This chapter attempts to understand the relation of firearms to political power in eighteenth-century Madagascar. It was during this period that the Merina, an isolated group in the highland interior, laid the foundations of its subsequent rule over most of Madagascar. The chapter addresses the means by which the Merina consolidated their power toward the end of the eighteenth century; their action provides a striking example of the way new military technology was successfully integrated with long-standing principles, thereby pervading a novel order of political dominance. The point is to minimize the role of firearms per se in order to stress the cultural content of technology. To the extent that muskets affected the outcome of battle they were employed according to a new tactical doctrine which itself indicated, and indeed emanated from, fundamental changes in sacred principles and social structure.