The Road to Independence - 50th Independence Anniversary

The Road to Independence - 50th Independence Anniversary

Written on 03/12/2018
Discover (Mauritius)

Learning about Mauritius history is quite fascinating. It is interesting to study the past which contributed a lot to the nowadays identity of Mauritius.

The known history of Mauritius begins with its discovery by Arabs, followed by Europeans and its appearance on maps in the early 16th century.  The first historical evidence of the existence of an island now known as Mauritius is on a map produced by the Italian cartographer Alberto Cantino in 1502. Cantino shows three islands which are thought to represent the Mascarenes (Réunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues) and calls them Dina Arobi (Abandoned/Deserted Island). What is known is that the medieval Arab world called the south-western Indian Ocean island region Waqwaq. Mauritius was successively colonized by the Dutch, the French and the British, and became independent in 1968.

Portuguese Period

After the Arabs, the Portuguese seaman Domingo Fernandez Pereira sighted Mauritius in 1507 and Named It “Ilha Do Cerne” (Island of the Swan). The Group of islands, which is Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Reunion were named Mascarenes after the Portuguese Captain, Pero Mascarenhas and today this group of islands is still known as the Mascarene Islands. However, they never settled in the country. Instead, used the island as a port of call and a source of fresh foods as their primary interests were in protecting their trade routes with India.


The Dutch Settlements

Around the year 1598, 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 honor of their Prince, Maurits van Nassau.


The French Period

On the 20th September, 1715, 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".  In 1734, Bertrand Mahé de Labourdonnais, a great sailor and trader was appointed governor of the island. That is when the colonisation started to take off. Under his administration the island developed considerably, particularly the town of Port Louis. During his governorship he built roads, a big civil and military hospital which still exists near the harbor. He also built the Government house, Pamplemousses Garden, Chateau de mon Plaisir, Powder magazines, stores, ware houses, the harbor, canals and a line of fortifications and batteries to defend the capital. Bertrand Mahé de Labourdonnais encouraged settlers to cultivate their land and obtained slaves from Madagascar, Mozambique, Indian sailors and artisans to help them. The settlers planted sugarcane, wheat, rice, cotton, coffee and indigo, and built the first factory at Pamplemousses.

The British Captivation

The British invaded Mauritius in 1810. Their main focus in captivating Mauritius was to protect their main sea route from England to British India from the French who threatened the British shipping and naval route. On 1810, the British landed at Cap Malheureux with a greater number of forces and 174 strong guns against the 144 guns of the French. The battle continued without interruption until the French which were outnumbered had to surrender. Once the British captivated the island, in order to gain the support of the locals they guaranteed the inhabitants that their customs, laws, language and culture will be respected. 'Ile de France' was renamed 'Mauritius' and it was formally given to Britain at the Treaty of Paris in 1815.  In August 1833 the law of abolishing slavery was passed by the British parliament and came into force in Mauritius in 1835. The abolition of slavery had important repercussions on the socio-economic and demographic fields. This resulted in turning to India, from where the local planters brought a large number of indentured laborers to work in the sugar cane fields.



Following Constitutional conferences held in London in 1955 and 1957, the ministerial system was introduced and general elections were held on 9th March 1959. In 1961, a Constitutional Review Conference was held in London and a programme of further Constitutional advance was established. It was followed in 1965 by the last Constitutional Conference which paved the way for Mauritius to achieve independence. After general elections in 1967, The Independence of Mauritius was proclaimed on 12th March, 1968 during an official ceremony at the Champ de Mars within the commonwealth with Seewoosagur Ramgoolam as Prime Minister.

With all these myriads of influences from various settlers, explorers and discoverers, Mauritius today is established as a land where all cultures meet! A mixture of all ethnicities and thus remaining hand in hand throughout the Island's progress. If you wish to discover more about this Multicultural Island and its Historical places, Download 'Discover Mauritius' Mobile app and participate in the amazing trail!