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Did you Know? Madagascar once had a mad queen

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Fans of the Flashman novel series may have heard about Ranavalona. During her 33-year reign, she prevented European attempts to acquire control of Madagascar, but she also concentrated her efforts on mercilessly destroying Christians, neighbouring kingdoms, and political competitors. Purges were so extensive, as was the exploitation of slave labour to build a massive palace and public works projects, that the island's population plummeted from five million to 2.5 million between 1833 and 1839. The tangena torture, in which the accused was poisoned and then forced to eat three pieces of chicken skin, was one method Ranavalona kept order. The inability to vomit all three parts, or death, showed culpability. Others were just t

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