History of Mauritius: Contribution of the Slaves

Topics: Slavery, Mauritius, Creole language Pages: 7 (1801 words) Published: May 27, 2014
"God first made Mauritius and from it, he created Paradise." This saying from Mark Twain praises the natural beauty of Mauritius. The island’s landscapes can be mesmerizing to the eyes of everyone, but Mauritius’ culture is not any less. However, it would be too simple to classify Mauritius as having one culture as so many unique and distinctive parts forms this whole. Going to its discovery can be a journey into some of the most fascinating and refined thousands year old ancestral traditions. It is made up of the different customs and traditions of those who, during the last 400 years, have settled on these shores. They all have been brought and planted on the fertile Mauritian soils by colonists from Europe, slaves from Africa, indentured laborers from India and Pakistan (before partition) and migrants from China. These people brought with them what they have been venerating in their country of origin; their tradition and cultures. This essay will take a look at how the migrants helped shaping the language, the food culture and the folklore culture in Mauritius. The island was first discovered by the Arabs in the 10th century and they named it Dina Robin. In 1510, the Portuguese visited the island and navigator Pedro Mascarenhas called it Cirné. “The small Portuguese element in the vocabulary of Mauritian creole derives rather from the Portuguese element in European maritime jargons (such as Sabir and Lingua Franca) or from enslaved Africans or Asians who came from areas where Portuguese was used as a trade language”1. Both the Arabs and the Portuguese did not permanently settle on the island. Instead, they just used it as a port of call in order to supply themselves in food and water. Later on, in 1598, the Dutch, while going to the East, landed at “Port Bourbon”2, now called Vieux Grand Port, in the South East of the island and they named the island “Mauritius”. Unlike the Portuguese, the Dutch decided to establishment some settlements on the island. “The first slaves were brough from Madagascar by the Dutch in 1639.”3 However, the difficult climatic conditions as well as the fact that they already had a well established settlement in South Africa, forced them to leave the island. Much more time after their departure, the French took over in 1715. They named the island “Isle de France”4. It was only from 1735 that the island started developing effectively. They created on Mauritius a plantation economy based on slave labor as they had done on “Ile de la Reunion” and in the West Indies. “Slaves became a majority of the population by 1730 and by 1777, they formed 85% of the total population.”5 These forced migrants came from West Africa, East Africa, Madagascar. French became the language among the slaves. However, their french would develop in a different way and thus, the creole language was created. The French governor, Mahé de La Bourdonnais, established Port Louis, which is now the Capital of Mauritius, as a naval base. A lot of buildings found today in Mauritius are from the French period. The Isle de France had become a base from which French corsairs successfully organized raids on British commercial ships. However, in 1810, a strong British expedition was sent to capture the island. The British landed in large numbers in the north of the island and overpowered the French, who did not have any choice but to leave. By the treaty of Paris in 1814, the Isle de France was renamed Mauritius and was given to Great Britain. When the British took over in 1810, “there were around 60,000 slaves in Mauritius. Britain had already abolished slave trade in its colonies but when Isle de France capitulated to the British in 1810, a deal passed between the British Government and the settlers on the preservation of their laws and customs.”6 So, the slave trade continued for a while. Under the British rule, “the island had completed the transition from being an agricultural and trading economy to become a plantation economy.”7...

Bibliography: “Mauritian Creole.” n.d. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauritian_Creole (assessed April 20, 2014).
“Map of Mauritius during French period.” n.d. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bonne_-_Isle_de_France_(Detail).jpg (assessed April 20, 2014).
“Clever Dodo.” Slavery in Mauritius. 2011. (20 April 2014).
“Voyaz.” Going to the discovery. n.d. (20 April 2014).
British Library. Indians overseas. n.d. (19 April 2014).
Rev. Beaton, Patrick. Creoles and coolies; or, Five years in Mauritius, n.d. (19 April 2014).
Mishra, Amit Kumar, Indian Indentured Labourers in Mauritius, 2009, < http://www.academia.edu/288870/Indian_Indentured_Labourers_In_Mauritius> (19 April 2014).
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