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Aepyornis Island

Author: Wells, H.G.

Genre: Short Story

Year: 1894


Before the Europeans arrived, Madagascar had been settled, in waves, by East Africans, Arabs, and Austronesians. The Malagasy encountered by early Europeans, which group comprised French proto-eco-tourists, as well as pirates and Portuguese slave traders, were a mixture of these earlier settlement populations. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Dutch, French and English traded there. In 1896, France jumped the queue, past old-time English merchant traders, and annexed Madagascar -this, despite the additional fact that the English already had an alliance with the most powerful monarch on the Island, the center of whose kingdom was the site of the current capital, Antananarivo.

Since the advent of colonization, Mozambique has been known in the western world for its unique natural history. HG Wells's story, 'Aepyornis Island' (1894), allegorizes the protective-exploitative relationship between Europe and the Island by describing what happens when a European visitor discovers that three of the giant birds (the aepyornis), previously thought to be extinct are still alive. As early as the 1660s, French naturalists and Utopianists visited Madagascar to collect and categorize its flora and fauna. By1896, Europe was at the dawn of paleontology. The rage for collecting, drawing, and keeping journals about the natural world found passionate expression among European visitors to the Island, which came to be regarded (especially by missionaries) as Edenic, as a strange lost world, and as a land outside of time.

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