Who are Mauritians?

If you take a trip around Mauritius, and are a people watcher (or even if you are not) you will see faces that could call Asia, Africa or Europe home. Mauritius was uninhabited when the Dutch arrived in 1598 and Mauritians today are descendants of European planters who came to Mauritius in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries; of Africans brought to the island under slavery from Madagascar, Mozambique and West Africa; of Indians who arrived in Mauritius under the Indenture scheme between the 1820s and early 20th century; and of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is of course, a broad categorisation. Whilst this is the basic generic published history of the Mauritian population, there are even further intricacies. Mauritius was also for example, home to an Indian population before Indian indenture commenced in the late 1820s, as under French and British rule it was a destination for Indian prisoners. The white Mauritian population is also often homogenized as Franco-Mauritian – yet not all Europeans who arrived in Mauritius were from France (archival naturalization records for example reveal Austrians, Belgians, Brits and Germans who settled on the island). And not all immigrants from Africa came as slaves; during the nineteenth century, Comorians and Malagasies for example were enlisted as indentured labourers. In short, Mauritius highlights the forced and voluntary mobility of people in and around the Indian Ocean during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it contains exciting and unique geo-histories of migration and settlement to be explored.

Coat of arms of Mauritius - the ever-present Stella Clavisque Maris Indici, or Star and Key of the Indian Ocean - indicating its strategic position at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and 18th and 19th century European shipping lanes

Coat of arms of Mauritius – the ever-present Stella Clavisque Maris Indici, or Star and Key of the Indian Ocean – indicating its strategic position at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and 18th and 19th century European shipping lanes

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