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History of Mauritius

Mauritius was discovered by the Portuguese in 1507 and was later occupied by the Dutch, from 1598 up until 1710.In 1715, it came into the possession of the East India Company and in 1767, that of the King of France, who christened it ‘Ile de France’.Captured by the British in 1810 and then acknowledged by the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the British allowed the French settlers to use their language and their civil code.

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Many of the settlers remained and made up a group of Franco-Mauritian important property owners and businessmen. The sugar cane cultivations first developed with the African and Malagasy slaves.

Following the abolition of slavery in 1835, the important landowners turned their attention to an influx of indentured Indian labourers, a large number of whom settled on the island. The island remained a British colony until its independence on 12th March 1968, under the presidency of Dr Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. The Dutch period~ The Dutch first arrived on the island in 1516, but was unable to colonise it as the slaves that had been brought over from Africa ran away into the mountains upon their arrival. They were the first fugitive slaves in Mauritius.

In 1641, the Dutch developed the slave trade, with slaves from Madagascar, in the hope of securing a return on their installation in Mauritius. In spite of this, only a few Malagasy slaves were brought to Mauritius during the Dutch occupation. In 1598, a Dutch squadron landed on the island under the orders of the Admiral Wybrand Van Warwick. It was then that the island was named Mauritius, after the Prince Mauritius Van Nassau of Holland. Instead of expanding the colony, the Dutch contented themselves with devastating the fauna (which led to the extinction of the dodo) and the flora that caused the extinction of ebony wood.

However, they introduced sugar cane and imported Java deer. They left the island along with their slaves in 1710, following severe droughts and devastation caused by the cyclones. The French colonisation~ Abandoned by the Dutch, Mauritius became a French colony when, in 1715, Guillaume Dufresne d’Arsel landed on its shores and named it “Ile de France. ” The first pioneers arrived in 1721, when the island was administered by the East India Company (1722 to 1767). This Company was founded by Louis XIV and Colbert to compete with the other European countries. In the hope of earning money, he was granted a trade monopoly cross the Indian Ocean for 50 years. About a hundred slaves from Senegal and Guinea arrived in Ile de France at the beginning of the colonisation period, notably between 1721 and1735. Following the request of Colbert, the kingdom’s state adviser, slavery was legalized on the 28th August 1670 in France. In the West Indies, slavery quickly ensured the economic prosperity of its regions. The famous black code was proclaimed in March 1685, under the order of Louis XIV. It was aimed to develop and ease the slavery system and specified the duties of the masters and the slaves.

However, the black code, established in all of the West Indies and in French Guinea, was seldom respected by the owners. In 1723, the Mascarene Islands adopted the famous black code and the letters of patent of Louis XIV in the form of an edict. They were recorded in the town of Saint-Paul in Ile Bourbon (Reunion Island) on the 18th September 1724, by the supreme adviser. As of 1725, this led to the arrival of thousands of slaves, mainly from Madagascar and East Africa, to cultivate the coffee and spice plantations. This labour seemed necessary in order to allow the East India Company to pursue the economic expansion of the Indian Ocean.

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