Antananarivo is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. It is also known by its French colonial name Tananarive or the shorthand form Tana. The larger urban area surrounding the city, known as Antananarivo-Renivohitra (“Antananarivo-Capital”), is the capital of the Analamanga region and of the Antananarivo autonomous province.
Unlike most capital cities in southern Africa, Antananarivo was already a major city before the colonial era. The city was founded circa 1625 by King Andrianjaka and takes its name (the City of the Thousand) from the number of soldiers assigned to guarding it. For many years it was the principal village of the Hova chiefs and gained importance as those chiefs made themselves sovereigns of the greater part of Madagascar, eventually becoming a town of some 80,000 inhabitants. In 1793 it was made the capital of the Merina kings. The conquests of King Radama I made Antananarivo the capital of almost all of Madagascar. Until 1869 all buildings within the city proper were of wood or rushes, but even then it possessed several timber palaces of considerable size, the largest being 120 ft (37 m) high. These crown the summit of the central portion of the ridge; and the largest palace, with its lofty roof and towers, is the most conspicuous object from every point of view.
Since the introduction of stone and brick, the entire city has been rebuilt and now contains numerous European-style structures, including the royal palaces, the houses formerly belonging to the prime minister and nobles, the French residency, the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, and several stone churches. Museum of Ethnology and Paleontology is located in the city.