HISTORY OF MAURITIUS
Mauritius was first known by the Arabs as ‘Dina Arobi’ on their map. Our island was then officially discovered by the Portuguese in 1505. Don Pedro Mascarenhas named the 3 nearby islands, Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, as the Mascarenes islands. However, the Portuguese did not stay long in Mauritius. The Dutch first landed on our island in 1598 and in the honour of the Prince Maurice Van Nassau, the island was named “Mauritius”. The first Dutch settlement in Mauritius was in the year 1638. They discovered the Dodos, which were flightless birds endemic to the island. The Dodos became extinct due to the great number of predators including the Dutch and other animals introduced by them. The Dutch also introduced the sugarcane plant, which later became the main crop of the island. The Dutch finally left the island in 1710.
The French took possession of Mauritius in 1715 by Mr Guillaume Dufresne D’Arsel and they renamed the island as “Isle De France”. In 1721, the colonisation of the island by the French started. The development of the island was brought about by the French Governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais, in 1735. Under his governorship, Port Louis was established as the main harbour and fort of the island. Also, a great number of buildings were constructed and some of them are still being maintained and used including “Le Chateau de Mon Plaisir”, found in Pamplemousses, and the Line Barracks which is now our police headquarters found in Port Louis. The famous Botanical Garden of Pamplemousses, now known as the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, was created when Mahé de Labourdonnais chose to set up his domain in Pamplemousses.
In 1767, the French Intendant, Pierre Poivre, introduced a variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers and spices from all over the world. Many of these plants were considered as prized species at that time, namely nutmegs and cloves. The garden was later administered by Nicolas Céré. The SSR Botanical Garden is now considered as one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in the southern hemisphere.
With the abolition of slavery in 1835, the planters brought a great number of indentured labourers from India to work in the sugarcane fields. The Indian immigrants consisting of both Hindus and Muslims were soon joined by a small number of Chinese traders. The cultivation of sugarcane expanded on the island and Mauritius flourished, particularly with he export of sugar to England. Further to the economic development, there was improved and extended means of communication. Gradually, proper infrastructures were created.
In 1810, the British gained possession of the island after the battle of Vieux Grand Port where the French capitulated. In 1814, in virtue of the treaty of Paris, the island took its former name “Mauritius” and its control was given to the British together with its dependency, namely Rodrigues Island. In the Act of Capitulation, the British took the engagement to respect the language, customs, laws and traditions of the island. There were rapid social and economic changes under the British Governorship.
In 1968, Mauritius got its independence and later became a republic in 1992 with a democratic parliament.