The seven Christians stood together in the bright sunlight, bound with ropes singing a hymn to their foreign savior as the spear men advanced. Around them a crowd of jostling men, women and children, more than sixty thousand strong...cheered enthusiastically as the spears were driven home and, one by one, the men and women fell and writhed on the sandy ground, their hymn fading slowly into silence...above the still writhing bodies, on a ridge, a score of crosses stood in mute witness, carrying their ghastly burdens, some of whom still lived despite the day and a half they had hung upon the wood. As European colonists scrambled for control of Africa, a leader arose in the red island of Madagascar who, through ruthless determination thwarted the combined ambitions of all the major world powers.That leader and the author of this holocaust was warrior but a diminutive woman of middle years, Ranavalona-Manjaka Queen of Madagascar, kw to her subjects more simply as Ma Dieu. Under Ranavalona's despotic rule, hundreds of thousands of her people, possibly one-half of Madagascar's entire population, were murdered, starved or simply worked to death by her express command, while she enjoyed an eccentric and debauched lifestyle. For these characteristics, European history has remembered her reign as that of the Female Caligula.
Dr. Kith Laidler is an anthropologist, writer and film-maker. He is the author of seven books, including the best selling The Last Empress (John Wiley). He is also producer of a large number of films, for which he did his own camera work. Originally concentrating on nature films, Dr. Laidler worked with Sir David Attenborough on The Living Planet. His production company, Wolfshead Productions, ahs made a number of highly acclaimed documentaries for a variety of broadcasters, such as Pandas Aren't Always Cuddly for BBC's Wildlife On One and Pandas of the Sleeping Dragon. He holds a PhD in anthropology from Durham University. He has, over recent years, turned his investigative techniques towards history and religion.