The first mentions of the island come from the Arabs a few hundred years before the 16th century. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers discovered 3 islands in the Indian Ocean that they named the Mascarene Islands after the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Mascarenhas. The 3 islands constituting the Mascarene archipelago are currently Mauritius, Reunion Island and Rodrigues, a dependency of Mauritius.
The Dutch arrive
The first traces of the man’s settlement on the island come from the Dutch who landed in 1598. They call it Mauritius, in homage to their Prince Maurice de Nassau. The Dutch introduced sugar cane, deer and monkeys to the island, among other things. In return, they cut down the precious ebony for export and devour the dodo, a large bird that is easy to catch. This is how the famous dodo disappeared because of man in the 17th century.
The Dutch abandoned the island in 1710. We can only guess at the reasons: perhaps it is due to a decrease in ebony wood, a lack of easy food following the extinction of the dodo, or because of cyclones, floods or droughts.
Then the French
5 years later, the French arrived and renamed the country Ile de France. They are serious about their occupation of the island, which is taking on increasing geopolitical importance thanks to its position on the sea route to India. The island serves as a refuge and supply base for ships bound for Europe’s India. At that time, the French and English were busy conquering India and anyone who owned Mauritius would have a clear advantage on this sea route. An ambitious development programme began on the island, especially under the reign of Governor Mahe de la Bourdonnais. Forests are being decimated to make way for sugar cane cultivation and road building. The island’s main port is moved to the northwest in Port-Louis.
British attacks on the island increased in parallel with the island’s growing political importance. French settlers built defences around the island, some of which are still visible to this day. A fort was built in Port-Louis, now known as the Citadel and the nearby Montagne des Signaux, named after its role as a lookout post to report maritime attacks on the port, an important strategic location. In August 1810, the British launched an ambitious attack on Grand-Port in the south-east of the country to conquer the entire island. The attack ended in disaster.
Followed by the English…
The English did not give up and returned at the end of the same year, more precisely in December 1810 to the north of the island with a victorious attack and took possession of the island. They promptly renamed it Mauritius. Following the Treaty of Paris, the English allowed French settlers to keep their religion, language and culture. That is why today, despite the fact that English is the official language of the country, it is rarely spoken even though it is widely understood by the population, whereas French is not an official language but is more spoken.
During the British occupation, Mauritius was part of the British Empire. The French had developed the island through the hard work and sweat of slaves from Africa. But in 1835, the abolition of slavery took place in Mauritius. Under the English, the workforce for the island’s development and work in the sugar cane fields came from India and China.
…and finally, Mauritians
The road to Independence began in 1948 when the first general elections were held and the newly created Legislative Council met for the first time. A ministerial system was introduced in 1950 and constitutional changes took place throughout the 1960s. After the 1967 general elections, a new constitution was adopted, which led to Mauritius’ independence a year later, on 12 March 1968.
In 1992, Mauritius became a republic and cut off all dependence on Britain once and for all. Today, the Republic of Mauritius includes Mauritius, Rodrigues and a few other small isolated islands and a vast maritime territory.