The British Period

Every new group to arrive in Mauritius has left its mark on the island. In 1810, the British captured the island from the French, and they made some big changes!

When the British took control of the island’s government, many French plantation owners stayed. These plantation owners continued using slaves to work the sugarcane fields. The slaves were treated terribly and their living conditions were rough. During the early 19th century, about 80% of the island’s population were slaves.

In 1835, the British ended slavery in all of their colonies. With the slaves freed, the British needed workers for the plantations. The Great Experiment was their answer to this problem.

The Great Experiment was a new system to hire workers called indentured laborers. These workers signed up for a job in a foreign country. Unlike slaves they were paid and only worked for a period of time – about 4 to 7 years. Working on the plantations was still a very difficult job, and the treatment was not much better than slavery. But, these indentured laborers saw it as a chance to start over in a new country.

During the Great Experiment almost 500,000 workers came Mauritius! These laborers arrived from India, with a smaller group coming from China.

In 1849, the British built Aapravasi Ghat, which means “Immigration Depot” in the Hindi language. This was the first place immigrants visited when they arrived in Mauritius. Like America’s Ellis Island, Aapravasi Ghat kept records and photos of the people who arrived there. Using these records, people can trace their family history.

Mauritius no longer uses indentured labor, but many Mauritians are related to indentured workers from India that came to the country between 1834 and 1920.

Where do your ancestors come from?