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Arabs, Portuguese and Dutch

Arab traders were the first to know of the existence of Mauritius at the end of the 10th century. They named the island Dinarobin, but did not settle there. Nor did the Portuguese explorers settle on the island, although they did visit it. It was Domingo Fernandez who was the first European to set foot on the island. He named the island Ilha do Cerne (Swan Island). It is thought that this name was related to the dodo or the name of Fernandez's ship. The island of Rodriguez was discovered by Diego Rodriguez in 1528. Together with Reunion, the islands were called the Maskarenes, after the Portuguese admiral Don Pedro Mascarenhas. In 1598 vice-admiral Wybrandt van Warwijck landed on the south-east coast of Mauritius. He claimed it for the Dutch and named it after the then Amsterdam stadholder, Maurits van Nassau. However, it would be another 40 years before the Dutch permanently settled on Mauritius. They used it as a stopover during the journeys to Batavia on Java. The Dutch East India Company also wanted to establish a trade monopoly on Mauritius for the precious ebony. Fort Frederik Hendrik, the oldest Dutch fort in Africa, was built. However, the Dutch colony never flourished and in 1710 the Dutch abandoned it for good, leaving behind a battered and changed Mauritius. The dodo was exterminated, slaves were introduced from mainland Africa, almost all the ebony was cut down, Java deer, wild boar, tobacco and especially sugar cane were imported.

French Period

Five years later, the Frenchman Guillaume Dufresne d'Arsal took Mauritius and turned it into a trading post. He named it Île de France and transferred it to the Compagnie des Indes Orientales. From 1721 the French definitively settled on the island and from 1735 a real governor, Bertrand François Mahé de Bourdonnais, was appointed. Under his rule, the port facilities were improved, the first schools and a hospital were built and a road network was constructed.

From the second half of the 18th century, the English took control of the Indian Ocean. Port Louis became a free port for pirates, who went on raids from there. The most famous was the Franco-Mauritian pirate Robert Surcouf. In 1789, the time of the French Revolution, the French governor was deposed. However, slavery was maintained.

English period

In 1810, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the English had had enough of piracy on the Indian Ocean. However, they were initially defeated by the French in the Battle of Vieux Grand Port. It would be the only naval battle ever won by Napoleon. Some time later they landed on the north coast of Mauritius at Cap Malheureux and conquered the whole island.

The Treaty of Paris in 1814 finally determined that Île de France, Rodrigues and the Seychelles were allocated to the English. The English immediately changed the name back to Mauritius. The French-Mauritians, however, were allowed to keep their language, religion and legal system. In 1835, slavery was abolished, the slaves freed and replaced or supplemented by workers from India and China. The English began to trade Mauritian sugar worldwide and this would ensure Mauritius's existence for the next 150 years. As a result, the Franco-Mauritian families became wealthy sugar barons to this day. Meanwhile, thousands more Indian workers were attracted, which would eventually prove to be of great political influence. Indeed, more than half the inhabitants of Mauritius are now of Indian origin. In 1901 Mauritius was visited by the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi to discuss, among other things, the civil rights of the population.

During the First and Second World Wars, Mauritius remained immune from acts of war. What the island was not spared were cyclones, malaria epidemics and a collapsing sugar market. In 1936, the Labour Party was founded and after the Second World War, anyone who was 21 and could write his name could become a member of the party. Under the inspiring leadership of Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the Labour Party became increasingly powerful in the 1950s and was the direct counterpart of the Partí Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD).


Mauritius became independent on 12 March 1968. Ramgoolam became the first elected Prime Minister and remained so for thirteen consecutive years, eventually in a coalition with the PMSD. In 1982, following new elections, a new coalition emerged between the left-wing Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) led by Paul Bérenger, and the Partí Socialiste Mauricien led by Anerood Jugnauth. Jugnauth became Prime Minister and Bérenger Minister of Finance. Following disagreements between the two, Bérenger soon resigned and Jugnauth continued with a coalition consisting of the MMM, the PMSD and two smaller parties. In August 1983, this coalition remained in power after elections. All went well until some members of the Mauritian parliament became involved in a drugs scandal in 1986. The sidelined Bérenger saw his chance, but Jugnauth also won the 1987 elections. After the 1991 elections, the two opponents, Jugnauth and Bérenger, were again driven into each other's arms. They ruled the country until 1995 when Jugnauth lost the elections to Navin Ramgoolam, son of the first Prime Minister Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.

In 1992 Mauritius was officially declared the Republic of Mauritius, independent of the former British motherland.

21th century

After the elections in September 2000, the Labour Party (LP) government was replaced by a coalition of the "Mouvement Socialiste Militant" (MSM) and the "Mouvement Militant Mauricien" (MMM). A key coalition agreement foresaw that the then Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth (MSM) would become President in 2003 and Bérenger (MMM) would become Prime Minister (now Leader of the Opposition) until the end of the five-year government period. In the last elections in July 2005, the Labour Party won and its leader Navim Rangoolam was appointed Prime Minister of the Alliance Social Coalition, which includes 5 other smaller parties. It remains to be seen to what extent President Jugnauth (MMS) and Prime Minister Rangoolam (AS) are able to work together. The AS won 38 of the 62 elective seats; the opposition (MMM/MSM) only 22 seats. The elections took place without too many problems by African standards. MMM/MSM's loss is widely blamed on growing fears of economic decline.

In the elections of October and December 2005, the coalition Alliance Sociale (AS) repeated its victory over MMM/MSM. AS' power has thus been established at all three levels of government in Mauritius. Navin Ramgoolam is again the Prime Minister. In May 2010, Navin Ramgoolam won the elections again. In August 2011, the militant socialists left the coalition, its leader Pravind Jugnauth was arrested on corruption charges. President Jugnauth resigned in March 2012 and was succeeded by Rajkeswur Kailash Purryag. In December 2014, the opposition led by ex-President Anerood Jugnauth won the parliamentary elections. Jugnauth becomes the new Prime Minister. On 5 June 2015, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim takes office as the new and first female president. In January 2017, Pravind Jugnauth succeeds his father as Prime Minister. In the December 2019 elections, Jugnauth is again elected Prime Minister and Pritivirajsing Roopun is elected President.


Ellis, R. / Mauritius, Rodrigues & Réunion

Pahlen, C. von der / Mauritius

Singh, S. / Mauritius, Réunion & Seychelles
Lonely Planet

Te gast in Mauritius
Informatie Verre reizen

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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