The indian ocean

Exotic and endangered: Madagascar in peril

Madagascar. There are so many delightful incongruities about the island. Despite being off the coast of Africa, because of the way the ocean currents work it was mainly settled by people from Borneo, 3,700 miles away — what Jared Diamond has described as ‘the single most astonishing fact of human geography’. For similar reasons, it is a biodiversity hotspot; more than 90 per cent of the wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. And as one of the world’s largest islands, the sheer size can make it hard to assimilate. If ‘the Republic of Madagascar’, its formal title, were stretched out across Europe, the country would reach from London to

When Britannia ruled the southern waves

In 1798, Tipu Sultan of Mysore sent an embassy to Mauritius. At home, he had fought the British and seen his kingdom shrink. Now he hoped to recruit Mauritian republicans in a joint fight. Mauritius had been a base for French troops attacking the British in India in the 1780s. In return for their help, Tipu promised to supply any Frenchman with provisions, except wine. And he pledged to kill every British soldier in India. Tipu’s mission is one of the many fascinating stories in this rich and stimulating new history of the world between the late 18th and the mid 19th centuries. Normally it is the French Revolution of