Mauritius History

Mauritius History

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”.

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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.

French domination

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.

British colony

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.

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Independent state

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 Mauricien).

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 country.

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.

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