Discovery and settlement
The island of Mauritius was probably already in the
10th century AD. entered by Arab seafarers but not
populated. It was discovered by the Portuguese seafarer
Pedro Mascarenhas in 1510, at which point it was still
uninhabited. From him the island group (Mauritius,
Rodrigues and Reunion) got the name "Maskarenes".
Since the islands were off the sea route to India
preferred by the Portuguese, they were only populated by
the Dutch almost 200 years later, the routes of which
ran along the Mascarene Islands. In 1598 they took
possession of the island of Mauritius and gave it their
name after a Dutch prince (Maurits of Orange). The first
settlements were established in Mauritius from 1638. In
1710 the Dutch withdrew from the island, which was now
used by pirates as a base. By then, the island's forests
had been almost completely cleared.
France had already taken possession of the islands of
Rodrigues and Reunion in 1638, in 1715 they also
appropriated Mauritius and called the island "Île de
France". In 1725 the island became the property of the
French East Indies trading company. The current capital,
Port Louis, was founded and the governor resided here.
Extensive sugar cane plantations were set up on the
island, and black slaves were brought in from East
Africa and Madagascar to manage them. A first sugar
factory was set up for processing. In 1767 Mauritius
became the French crown colony after the French East
Indies trading company went bankrupt.
In 1810 British troops conquered the island and
renamed it Mauritius, four years later it became the
British crown colony. According to AbbreviationFinder, Rodrigues also fell into British
hands, while R¨¦union remained French. The British
occupiers had little influence on the existing
conditions, which allowed French culture to be preserved
on the islands.
After slavery was officially banned by the British
colonial power in 1835, so-called "contract workers"
from India and China were brought to the island to work
on the sugar cane plantations. The population on the two
islands increased by leaps and bounds (1835: approx.
90,000, 1860: approx. 300,000). In the second half of
the 19th century, an estimated 50,000 island residents
fell victim to several malaria epidemics. From 1871
immigration was stopped by Indians, who at that time had
a share of around 60% of the total population. Only a
small white minority within the population (Franco-Mauritians)
held political rights and formed the upper class.
With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the
falling world market price for sugar cane, the island's
economy suffered severe losses. During the First World
War, sugar demand rose again and the economy recovered.
During the Second World War, Mauritius was used by
Britain as a military base.
After the war ended, the island was granted limited
internal self-government by Britain. Political autonomy
and universal suffrage were introduced in 1958.
The first political parties emerged in the 1930s: in
1936, Indians and Creoles in Mauritius founded the
"Parti Travailliste" (PTM) workers' party. In 1953 the
"Parti Mauricien Social D¨¦mocrate" (PMSD) was created.
After Mauritius gained independence as a parliamentary
monarchy within the British Commonwealth in March 1968,
both parties formed a government coalition under
Seewoosagur Ramgoolam as Prime Minister. The head of
state was officially the British monarch.
Due to the poor economic situation, there were
repeated general strikes and civil unrest. As a result,
Prime Minister Ramgoolam declared a state of emergency
in 1972 and postponed the upcoming elections. The next
elections took place in 1982 and the Ramgoolam, who had
been in office until then, was voted out with an
overwhelming majority. The new prime minister was the
socialist-oriented Aneerood Jugnauth of the MSM
(Mouvement Sozialiste Mauritien), which was a splinter
party of the Marxist-oriented MMM (Mouvement Militant
In March 1992, the island nation received a new
constitution that transformed the country into a
republic. HE Cassam Uteem (MMM) became the first
president, while Jugnauth remained the head of
government. In new elections in 1995, the alliance of
PTM and MMM won all seats in Parliament. The country's
new head of government became PTM chairman Navin
Ramgoolam, who continued his predecessor's successful
economic and social policies. At the end of the 1990s,
Mauritius was on the threshold of an industrialized
In the parliamentary elections in September 2000, the
opposition alliance between the two parties MMM and MSM
(Mouvement Militant Mauritien / Mouvement Sozialiste
Mauritien) won 54 of the 62 seats. Aneerood Jugnauth,
who had been head of government from 1982 to 1995, once
again assumed the office of prime minister.
In February 2002, President Cassam Uteem resigned
because he did not want to support the government's new
anti-terrorism law. His successor was Vice President
Angidi Chettiar for only three days, who resigned for
the same reason as Uteem. Karl Offmann (MMM), who was
replaced in 2003 by Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth,
finally became the new president. The government's
anti-terrorism law had meanwhile been approved by
Interim President Arianga Pillay.
Despite conflicts between the two parties, MMM and
MSM, they again campaigned against a PTM-led social
alliance in the July 2005 elections. However, the latter
was ultimately able to achieve a clear victory. Since
then, the PTM has been the head of government with Navin
Ramgoolam. The PTM under Ramgoolan also won in the
parliamentary elections in 2010. After President
Jugnauth's resignation, the previous parliamentary
speaker Kailash Purryag was sworn in as the fifth
President of the Republic in July 2012.