1810 - 1968 - British Period in Mauritius

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Mauritius history musuem mahébourgBritish conquest was a take-over rather than a conquest! The condition under the Capitulation Treaty was very flexible with no major changes in the laws and customs of the people. The first act of the British was to change the name of the island to Mauritius, name originally given by the Dutch. Likewise Port Napoleon was renamed Port Louis and Port Imperial became Grand Port. Other than that, little changed on the Island. Under the Capitulation Treaty signed by General de Caen, Governor of Ile de France and General John Abercrombie, Captain of the British forces, the settlers were given a lot of concessions. It was for example agreed that the inhabitants would be looked upon with respect and they would enjoy their own religious beliefs and would retain the laws and customs preparing before the conquest. There was also a by-clause which stipulated that those who wished to migrate back to France could do so within a period of 2 years. They could sell their properties if they wished to. As a result of these flexible agreements, only a few left and the vast majority stayed. The aim of the British was not to settle in Mauritius but rather to control the island because of its strategic position in the Indian Ocean. This policy was in line with their global policy which was to achieve economic and political control with as little interference as possible.
Sir Robert Farquar, the first British Governor’s goal was to establish control all over the Island. He did not want Mauritius to be governed by the East India Company but by the British Crown. In order to have political control, certain jobs were reserved for the British. The post of Governor, Military Commander and Judicial assessors were reserved for the British. Exception made of these three jobs everything remained in French hands. Civil codes were also maintained and even when there were problems with the laws, the British did not intervene. Sir Robert Farquar was also very conciliatory towards the French. Slave trade continued even though abolished in other British colonies. In fact he did not take the necessary measures until he was reprimanded. Farquar also allowed Port-Louis to be opened as a free port although illegal under British Navigation laws. He also suggested that sugarcane should become the main activity of the island and become the primary crop.
Their measures gradually transformed Mauritius from being a trading society (18th Century) into a plantation/monocrop economy(19th Century). By the time Farquar left Mauritius, the island had completed the transition from being an agricultural and trading economy to become a plantation economy.
1810 - 1968 - BRITISH PERIOD

Mauritius history apravasi gatThe main legacy of the British period was the transformation of the Island from an agricultural and trading post into a plantation economy. This change had great social and economic repercussions. The abolition of slavery in 1835, for example, led to severe labour problems. Most of the 80,000 slaves that used to work in the plantation opted to leave them. As a result the British turned to India to recruit workers on a contract basis (Indentured labourers). From 1834 to 1922, 450,000 Indian workers came to Mauritius. This massive import of labour has, as a result, greatly modified the economic, cultural and political life of the island.
The British legacy can also be seen in our Administration and our System of Government. Our democracy is based on the Westminster model and our Administration is based on the British system

When the British took over in 1810, there were around 60,000 slaves in Mauritius. Britain had already abolished slave trade in its colonies but when Isle de France capitulated to the British in 1810, a deal passed between the British Government and the settlers on the preservation of their laws and customs. This meant that slave trade continued for a while. One major change under the British was that Mauritius became a monocrop-plantation economy. Everybody became dependent on sugar cane. This can explain why the authorities allowed slavery to continue in Mauritius. Under pressure from the Abolitionists in Britain the local British authorities finally opted for a gradual transition period called apprenticeship that finally ended in 1839.
When apprenticeship ended in 1839 and slavery abolished, 25,000 slaves were on the sugar estates. The slaves gradually abandoned the plantations and took up more liberal jobs. This led to an acute shortage of labour on the island. The British consequently decided to allow the employment of indentured labourers from India. This led to the second wave of immigration that greatly modified the social, cultural and political landscape of the island.
It was during British rule that slavery was abolished in 1835 and Indentured labourers were contracted from India. The 19th Century was a time of great change in the population structure of the island. The coloured people and immigrants greatly modified the political state of the island. The 20th Century saw a contimation of the political struggle started in the 19th Century. Political Parties were formed and the distribution of power was reformed to accommodate the different emerging segment of the population. In 1936 the Mauritian Labour Party was created and in 1968 the island became an independent country. The second half of the 20th Century is marked by reforms brought to the economy which led to the economic boom after 1982 and to the transformation of the island from an underdeveloped, third world country, into a developing country.


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