History of Mauritius

Significant historical milestones of our country…


The Portuguese navigator, Bartholomew Dias, wrote the first chapter of the history of the commercial shipping route between Europe and Asia, known as the Spice Route, by rounding the Cape of Good Hope.


An ancient map dated around this year indicated - for the first time - the presence of the three Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean. They then had Arab-sounding names: "Dina Arobi" (Mauritius), "Dina Mozare" (Rodrigues) and "Dina Margabim" (Reunion).

Early 16th century

The Portuguese left the first traces of human presence on Mauritian land, naming it "Ihla Do Cirne" (Swan Island).


The Dutch Rear Admiral Wybrant van Warwijck and his troops landed in the bay that is nowadays called the Bay of Grand Port. They used this opportunity to get fresh supplies and visit the island, which they renamed "Mauritius" in honour of their Prince, Maurits van Nassau.


A devastating cyclone hit the island, forcing the Dutch Governor to permanently abandon it.


The last remaining settlers depart from Mauritius. In those days, the French were already present in Reunion (then Bourbon Island) and in Madagascar.


On 20th September,Captain Guillaume Dufresne d’Arsel landed in Port North-West, near the area now known as Les Salines and officially took possession of the island. He renamed this new French possession "Isle de France".


The first French colonists settled on the island but it was only following the arrival of the Governor, Mahé de La Bourdonnais, that colonisation started to take off. Under his administration the island developed considerably, particularly the town of Port Louis.


Mahé de La Bourdonnais leaves Isle de France, which had become an important naval base and the capital of the French East India Company in the Indian Ocean. This period of major developments also fuelled growth in slave trade and thousands of slaves were brought to Isle de France, mainly from Madagascar and Mozambique.


The East India Company being on the verge of bankruptcy had no choice but to cede the island back to the French crown. The King then appointed Pierre Poivre as the Administrator of Isle de France. Poivre introduced various species of spice plants in the Mascarene Islands and in the Seychelles. He also created the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, which became a remarkable nursery of exotic plants and flowers. Growth in the island picked up again after years of downturn. An intense activity was prevailing, namely in the port, where the end of the monopoly of the East India Company brought about the liberalisation of trade with India.


On 29th November, the British landed in the north of the island and marched towards Port Louis. Five days later, the French capitulated and the British restored the island’s name to Mauritius. Robert Townsend Farquhar became the first British Governor of the island.


The Treaty of Paris ratified the terms of the honourable capitulation promised to the French settlers in 1810, especially regarding respect for property ownership, traditions, the laws in force, religions practised and languages in use in Mauritius.


Slavery was permanently abolished in the colony. After that date, indentured labourers from India (coolies) came in hundreds of thousands to work in the sugarcane fields, transforming the socio-cultural landscape of the island.

End of 19th century

Great malaria epidemics struck the population, causing those who could to move to the upper lands, thus contributing to the creation of towns like Curepipe, Vacoas and Rose Hill.


The introduction of the railway system also encouraged the migration of the population to other regions of the island.

Early 20th century

Political emancipation is a reality.


The Independence of Mauritius was proclaimed on 12th March during an official ceremony at the Champ de Mars. The years which followed were marked by the taking over of the administration of the island and by attempts to diversify the economy which was until then heavily reliant on sugar production.