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The Star and the key of the Indian Océan


A brief History

The island was uninabited until the end of the 16th century, but the arabs certainly came in the 10th century. The first european visitor was probably the portuguese navigator Domingos Fernandez who landed about 1510 or 1511; it is this name "Domingos Fernandez" that one finds on protuguese maps from 1519 to 1553.
Ten years later this name was remplaced by that of "Sirne" or "Cerne", from the name of the ship of the fleet of Alphonse Albuquerque which had reached the island on 20 febuary 1507, a name which is the most well-known today.
It is to Pedro Mascarenhas another portuguese navigator, that the island of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodriguez were called "Mascareignes". The portuguese, however, didn't remain on the island and the only traces of their visits are domestics animals and monkeys which they introduce there.

In 1580, the island passed under spanish domination until the first dutch expedition arrived in 1598. In 1638 the dutch occupied the island, which tey named "Mauritius" in honour of Stathoulder Maurice de Nassau, their sovereing, and established a small colony there.
It was from Mauritius, in 1642, that the dutch navigator Tasmann undertook his voyage of discovery to Australia. In 1639, the dutch introduced cane sugar from Java, but this attempt at colonization didn't succeed and, in in 1710, they left the island, abandoning it to the  european pairates installed in their republic of "Libertalia" in Diego-Suarez bay, Madagascar.
The indigenous fauna of famous bird dronte or dodo were decimated, the sugar canes were abandoned and the island returned to its savage state. Tundjuc javanese stags ans wild boars proliferated freely in the forest.

Until the arrival of the french, the island served as a port of call on the route from the Cape to India. Now there only remain the stories of fabulous treasures buried by pirates on the coast, which have given rise to modern searches for them.
On 30 september 1715, Captain Guillaume Dufresne d'Arsel, acting on Royal orders, landed at Moluques (later Port Louis) and took possession of this valuable port of call naming it "Ile de France". Colonization began in 1721 when the chevalier Jean Baptiste Garnier du Fougeret took possession in the name of the Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales. Under the active administration of Bertrand François Mahé de Labourdonnais (1735-1746), the island developped rapidely and became an important naval base.
In 1743 the first sugar refineries were set up at Ferney and at Villebague at Pamplemousses. The Compagnie des Indes, ruined by the wars, left the island in 1767 to the King of France and, under royal administration, commerce fleurished.

During the 18th century wars, the stategic importance of Port Louis as a base of operations controlling the indian ocean was amply demonstrated. However, it was during the war of American Independance and the wars of the french revolution that the island acquired its reputation as a privateer's retreat. After the rupture of the links with France during the revolution, the island was left to his own ressources; its history, since then, is snwn with glorious episodes of privateering in which Robert  Surcouf and others corsairs, of which Jean François Hodoul, distinguished themself

In july 1810 the british occupied Bourbon Island (later La Réunion island) but their squadron, in attempting to take possession of the Ile de France, was beaten on 19 and 20 august at the Battle of Grand Port, which name is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, amongst the other Napoleonic victories.
Several months later the british gathered a strong expeditionary force on Rodrigues Island (560 kms to the North East). 20.000 men disembarked on the north of the Ile de France (Cape malheureux) and quickly dominated the french forces of Governor Decaën, which were inferior in numbers and cesased fighting at Reduit.
Thus on 2 december 1810, ended 89 years of french rule. The Treaty of Paris in 1814 ceded to the british the Ile de France which took its former name of Ile Maurice or Mauritius, as well as its dependancies of Rodrigues, Seychelles and Chagos. The native language of the inhabitants, religion, laws (code Napoleon) manners and traditions were preserved.

Under british administration, the economy developped rapidly and important changes occured in the social life, such as the abolition of slavery in 1835 and the use of indian manpower. Economic progresse, requiring the extension of internal communication for transporting sugar to Port Louis, gave rise to road and railways construction. In the mid - 19th century, more than 250 sugar refineries were in production; now there are only 22, producing 650.000 tons of sugar annually.

In september 1965, a constitutional conference decided to give Mauritius its independance after six month of internal autonomy. The elections of 7 august 1967 confirmed in power those political groups which had fought for independance, which was granted on 12 march 1968.

According to Régis Fanchette IGN France

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