The French Period
In 1705, the Dutch abandoned Mauritius. Five years later, the French landed on its shores. They named the island “Ile de France” which means “Island of France.” They quickly started building their settlement in the north-west part of the island.
Over the next 14 years, ships brought settlers, Catholic priests, and hundreds of African slaves to Ile de France.
Unlike the Dutch, the French were able to create a successful settlement on Mauritius. This was thanks to a French navy officer named Bertrand-Francois Mahé de La Bourdonnais. That’s a mouthful! Let’s just call him Mahé.
Mahé arrived on the island in 1735 and he was named Governor. He ordered permanent stone structures, paved roads, and hospitals to be built. His city was called Port Louis and it quickly became an important stop in the Indian Ocean for tradesmen.
As the city grew so did the farming business. Even though the Dutch brought sugarcane and tea to the island, it was the French who began to plant acres and acres of sugarcane fields. Soon, Mauritius began to produce tea and sugar to be sold and traded all over the world.
The French brought more slaves to work the fields. Slaves were imported from Madagascar, Mozambique, and west Africa. This began plantation slavery in Mauritius. Around the same time, slaves were brought to America to work on the cotton and tobacco plantations.
The successful French colony on Mauritius was a result of thousands hard-working slaves. These slaves were often mistreated and many of them tried escape from their terrible lives by hiding in the forests and mountains.
The British took control of Ile de France in 1810. With the British came many changes, and slavery on Mauritius ended in 1835. This created a big challenge for the British: Who would work on the sugarcane plantations?