Mauritius History

mauritius history
© 2002 All rights reserved. Photo courtesy Musée de la Photographie
fort Frederick HendrickMauritius was first discovered by the Arabs in the 10th century and was named Dina Robin. In 1510 the Portuguese led by navigator Pedro Mascarenhas visited the island and called it Cirné. Just like the Arabs before them, they only used it as a port of call and never established any permanent settlement.
In 1598, the Dutch on their way to the East fortuitously landed at Vieux Grand Port, in the south east of the island, and named it after their Prince “ Mauritius Van Nassau ”, the younger son of Guillaume de Nassau, Prince Orange and Stadholder of Holland. Unlike the Portuguese who had little influence in the Indian Ocean, the Dutch were much more powerful in the region. They had already several counters in the East and established a first settlement under the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch however showed more interest with the Far East and the peopling of Mauritius remained very unstable. In 1712, they finally withdrew from Mauritius because of the difficult climatic conditions prevailing on the island and because it was more worthwhile to consolidate their already established base in Capetown (South Africa).
 Their withdrawal allowed the French in 1715, who were already operating in the Indian Ocean, to move in. They named the island Isle de France. True colonisation and peopling of the island started under the French in 1722 and they would control the island until 1810. For almost 100 years the Isle de France was developed and built up with the objective of conquering Madras and other Indian counters from the British. Under the French, colonisation was successful because they were prepared to settle and develop the infrastructure, agriculture and economy and use it as a trading post rather than just a port of call.
After the defeat of the French in India, Britain became the most important land based power in the Indian Ocean. Finally in 1810 the British moved in and took over the island six months after having been vanquished by the same French during the naval battle of Vieux Grand Port. It was to be the one and only victory of the navy of Napoleon in the world.
Mauritius history immigrantsIt 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 of the island. The 20th Century saw a continuation 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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