Today, 12th March, is the National Day of Mauritius! It is a day that marks two key events in Mauritian history: the day it gained independence from Britain and the day it became a republic.
Mauritius is one of the smallest countries in the world, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean located about 2,000 km off the coast of Africa. It is a place of phenomenal natural beauty, containing some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, forests, coral reefs, and even a volcano! Despite its small size, it has a fascinating and colourful history.
Originally uninhabited, although it had been visited by Arab and European explorers, it was the Dutch who first settled on the island in 1638. However, they abandoned the island in 1710 after being unable to develop a sustainable settlement.
In 1715, France took control of Mauritius due to its excellent strategic position and proximity to other islands controlled by the French. They renamed it Île-de-France and brought in many slaves from all over Africa. For the next hundred years, the island was used as a military base from which the French performed raids on British ships.
However, in 1810 the British navy sent an expedition to capture the island. The French forces were unable to repel the invaders and the island was formally surrendered to British rule. It was renamed Mauritius once again. In 1835, slavery was abolished on the island, and in place of the slaves the British brought in a large number of indentured labourers from India. These workers settled permanently on the island and are the ancestors to much of the local Mauritian population today.
Mauritius was a British colony for over 150 years until it finally gained independence. After a hard-fought campaign that included the introduction of political parties, the first general election, and the right to vote, Mauritius was officially proclaimed independent from British rule on 12 March 1968. Twenty-four years later, in 1992, a vote was held to change the Constitution and make the country a republic. The vote was successful, and Mauritius was declared a republic on 12 March 1992.
Mauritius is not only a country of breathtaking natural beauty, but it is also a true example of progression and modernisation, which is demonstrated in its transition into a successful 21st century nation. Its history of European, African and Indian peoples, as well as its increasing status as a tourist destination, has seen it grow into a diversity of cultures and religions living together in harmony.
Martin Bullock Lawyers has strong links to Mauritius. Greg Martin’s wife is half-Mauritian, half-Indian, and speaks French fluently. Our children have all visited Mauritius and have a special love for the Jewel and Crown of the Indian Ocean!